Posted by: Fredda Sacharow | April 27, 2013

Saluting the Music of a Resilient People

Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves brings greetings from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves brings greetings from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The New Jersey Folk Festival is paying tribute today to the remarkable resilience of the Garifuna people, a community that has survived wars, exile and deprivation – and which today is flourishing.

“I believe this is due in great part to their absolute refusal to surrender against incredible odds,” says Camillo Gonsalves, permanent representative to the United Nations for St.  Vincent and the Grenadines, who spoke earlier this afternoon at the 39th annual gathering of the festival.

St. Vincent is the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people, who today are found largely in Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. A large Garifuna diaspora also exists in New York and New Jersey, the ambassador says.

Among the performers on the Skylands Stage was GAMAE Garifuna, a Brooklyn-based group that bussed some 25 members to New Brunswick to share their lively, percussion-based art.

“Audience! We want you up here dancing!” The words come from Eleanor Castillo, a founder of the troupe who exhorted Rutgers Day visitors to leave their lawn chairs and blankets to move to the lively and persistent beat.

By noon, more than 25,000 people had gathered to share the music experience, according to festival coordinator Angus Gillespie, who anticipates that critical mass would rise as the afternoon winds on.

There’s still plenty of time to take in the sounds of the music and the smells of food grilling. Among the offerings this afternoon are an exploration of the folk roots of New Jersey favorite son Bruce Springsteen, and a celebration of Irish sea songs and pirate ballads.


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