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The Artistic Note – A Series in Tribute to Belizean Artists – From Back A Di Zinc Fence

FeaturesThe Artistic Note - A Series in Tribute to Belizean Artists - From Back A Di Zinc Fence
Amandala took the opportunity on the occasion of KREM’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, to interview the iconic parandero/poet/priest Paul Nabor.
 
Adele: Paul Nabor
 
Nabi: My sister, what can I do for you?
 
Adele: The most famous. How long have you been singing?
 
Nabi: Well, I started to sing when I was 18 years old, and now I am 81—I am still singing. Thank the good Lord for it.
 
Adele: You’re well known for Paranda, but when you started was it Paranda that you sang?
 
Nabi: Yes.
 
Adele: That has always been your thing?
 
Nabi: Yes.
 
Adele: And they call you the Parandero.
 
Nabi: Yeah.
 
Adele: You write your own songs.
 
Nabi: My own songs. I made them, and I played [the guitar] and I made people dance to them. I am happy with my movement, but now I am going to stop because I am 81.
 
Adele: You can’t just stop.
 
Nabi: Yeah, I going to stop. It’s time.
 
Adele: So what are you going to do when you stop?
 
Nabi: Well, I am going to make a little farm for myself. And if I can go and catch a little fish I will go. And then I will relax. It’s time to rest.
 
The last trip that I made with Andy Palacio to Malaysia, I told them I am not going back no more. Useless they tell me let’s go, because I am not going back, because I am the one that’s feeling the pressure out there.
 
Adele: What kind of pressure?
 
Nabi: The pressure is the cold. I tell you, that cold does not belong to us. We are born here. This place is warm; that place is cold.
 
Adele: So 18 to 81, that’s about 63 years. 63 years you’ve been singing. Tell me about yourself; you were born in PG?
 
Nabi: I was born there. After I reached 18 years old, I left PG and I went to the Guatemala side, and I started to travel about – Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua. Then I came back. When I came back, I got a break to go to France. When I came back from France, I got a break to go to America. Then I came back, I got a break to go to Germany. From Germany I went to Italy, from Italy I went to Rome, from Rome I went to Spain, from Spain I went to Malaysia, and that’s the end of my trip.
 
Adele: So you’ve traveled the world!
 
Nabi: All the world.
 
Adele: What was that experience like for you? Apart from not liking the cold, what about the other parts of the experience?
 
Nabi: Well, I love the places, but I mean it’s useless, because I can’t face the cold there.
 
Adele: How do the people treat you?
 
Nabi: They treat you fine. Everybody is happy with my voice. And I am happy with them too.
 
Adele: Do you feel satisfied about your career?
 
Nabi: That’s right. I am satisfied.
 
Adele: Is there anything that you would have liked to do over the past six decades that you didn’t get to do or you got to do everything that you wanted?
 
Nabi: I had to do everything. You know I used to play football and I used to box? I used to handle my hand and handle my foot. But I am told it’s not time for me to do it now. The time has passed. I have to leave these for the young children. And who takes it up, it is good for them, because I have been eating my piece of bread from 18 years old, until right now – I am 81.
 
If I am able to make 82, I will take it, because we don’t know our life. Only one man knows our life. It’s Jesus Christ. If he says it’s time to go, you can’t say I wanted one more year.
 
Adele: Anything that you regret having not been able to do?
 
Nabi: I didn’t have any such experience, feeling sorry for not being able to do something. No regrets — when I decide to do something, I will do it, because God gives me strength to do it. But if God says you will not do something, He will not give me strength. But I do everything I feel like doing in the world.
 
Adele: You’re happy with the way the young generation is picking up the music?
 
Nabi: Well, I am happy with them, but I am not happy with the dancing that the youth are doing. This dancing that they are doing now is not no dancing – vulgar dancing. They are jumping all about; they are dancing like cows. That is not dancing. And people don’t dress up like one time.
 
Adele: Any old thing goes…
 
Nabi: When they used to have dance you had to dress up, stop make yourself ragged, and you had to dance a decent way. Not this jumping around. I don’t even go to watch the dancing.
 
Adele: So after this, it’s no more albums, no more performances? It’s retirement for you?
 
Nabi: No more, no more.
 
Adele: You’re out of The Garifuna Collective?
 
Nabi: I’m not out there but I am not going there again…I tell them I am not going to be with them. I am the one that’s feeling my body. Maybe I look strong, but the body is not there. The mind can be strong, but your body is weak.
 
Adele: But you don’t have any major illness or anything like that. You just said you’re in reasonable health? It’s time for you to relax now.
 
Nabi: Yes. If I can sit down and smoke my cigar, play my guitar, it’s better for me…I am not waiting for anything good; I am waiting for my death.
 
Adele: Any message to the younger generation?
 
Nabi: Well, I must tell them to try and keep up the culture. When I look into myself—I have some songs in my head but I don’t want to put them out.
 
Adele: Since you’re retiring now, will you write down some of those songs?
 
Nabi: I won’t. I don’t write any of my songs down. Everything is out of my head.
 
Adele: You have any new songs you want to record?
 
Nabi: That one that I sang there just now. I made that one about Andy Palacio, because when he died, Barranco people said it was me who killed Andy. And I don’t know anything about Andy. That was the first song that I sang [just now].
 
Adele: So what is the song saying?
 
Nabi: This song says, the scar that I have is a bad scar, the stain that I have is a bad stain. Why is it bad?
 
Because I get bad name.
        
 So I know England, I know Germany, I know Italy, I know France…so why would I kill Andy?
 
Adele: What kind of work did you do as a young man?
 
Nabi: I chopped plantain and worked mahogany. Where did that go? Everybody has forgotten about mahogany now. Then they had saw mill. Then I went and worked chicle. I tried everything in the world
       
My grandfather told me, ‘You must not be scared of anything; you must try.’ And I tried.
       
I can’t complain. I play my guitar. I drink the rum and jolly myself with some friends.
 
 (Author’s NOTE: Nabi told us that he has one daughter, Marie Santino, 54, living in the USA. This interview was conducted two days before Paul Nabor suffered a minor stroke and had to be hospitalized. He was discharged on Monday.)
 
Paul Nabor’s Music can be found on
 
1. Paranda
 
2. Wátina
 
3. From Backabush
  
(Albums produced by Stonetree Records.)
 
Paul Nabor: A musical legend among the Garifuna, he is also the “Buyei” (religious leader of his community). Sadly, he is also the last living Parandero in Punta Gorda. Punta Gorda (locals call it PG) is a small coastal village in southern Belize. Nabor still spends many of his days at sea fishing, evenings playing his guitar, all the while working as spiritual leader for his community.
    
He often talks about how life has changed for the Garifuna: “Growing up, we got all we needed from the earth. We fished, we farmed. We picked coconuts, made our own instruments. Occasionally we’d trade for new clothes. That was it. After the introduction of ‘money,’ things changed. People now feel that they need ‘more and more stuff, things’. More and more Garifuna keep moving to the cities where they are unhappy since they’ve lost touch with the land.”
    
Paul Nabor is no longer in good health, though he continues to work a full schedule of fishing, playing guitar, and leading his congregation.
    
Nabor wrote the moving, “Naguya Nei,” when his sister was on her deathbed. She had asked to be remembered in song at her funeral. The song has become almost an anthem in Punta Gorda. Nabor has expressed that he would like the funeral procession to sing this song at his burial as well.
 
Source: http://www.myspace.com/paulnabor

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