Go to Content
Columbia College Chicago


Definition of Style

Contributed by Oliver N. Greene Jr.

Punta is the most celebrated of the indigenous secular dance-song genres of the Garinagu (commonly called the Garifuna), a people of Amerindian and African descent who live along the Caribbean coast of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua and as immigrants in urban centers in the United States. The Garinagu share a common language, system of customs and beliefs, post-mortem rituals, and repertoire of music and dance. Punta, a reenactment of the cock-and-hen mating dance, is characterized by a motionless upper torso and rapid movement of the buttocks and hips caused by continuously shuffling the feet. Social commentary songs performed responsorially to the sound of two drums, rattles, and occasionally conch shell trumpets and hollow turtle shells struck with mallets accompany dance movements. The most recognizable and identifying characteristics of punta are the duple-meter ostinato played on the segunda or bass drum (see Example below) and the shaking of the buttocks, a gesture found in West African cultures and in many African-derived cultures in the Caribbean and the Americas. A series of rhythmic motives characteristic of punta are improvised on the primero (the tenor or lead drum), the smaller of the two Garifuna drums. Although punta is an expression of sexual dialogue between men and women, song texts are almost exclusively composed by women, commenting on male infidelity and other unacceptable behavior as well as typical challenges that affect an individual or family.

Measures 1 and 2 of segunda part of excerpt two: "Malate isien".

Today the word punta is also used as a diminutive for punta rock, the name of the popular contemporary adaptation of the traditional genre. Punta rock features a synthesis of electric instruments (drum machine, lead and bass guitars, and a keyboard), an acoustic drum set, and Garifuna drums and other indigenous instruments. Musically, the genre shows the influence of soca, salsa, reggae, rap, hip-hip, and other forms of Caribbean and urban-American popular music. A punta rock song may also be an adaptation of a paranda (a duple-meter dance-song for voice and guitar) or another genre of traditional Garifuna music. Punta rock bands are almost exclusively composed of men. Songs are usually faster than punta songs, and the dances are more provocative.

Although differences of opinion exist concerning the origin of punta rock, Belizeans identify Pen Cayetano, a self-taught artist and musician, as the creator of the genre. Cayetano created punta rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s in order to make traditional music more appealing to Garifuna youth. Aurelio Martinez, a popular Honduran artists, credits the group Góbana from Honduras with starting punta rock in the 1980s. Punta rock artists who migrated to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have made significant contributions in the areas of recording, production, promotions, and record distributions since the 1990s. Many of the popular punta rock musicians currently live in these cities.


Greene, Oliver N., Jr. 2004. Ethnicity, modernity, and retention in the Garifuna punta. Black Music Research Journal 22, no. 2: 189-216.

Rosenberg, Dan. 1998. Parrandalised. Folk Roots 20 nos. 2-3: 47-51.

Ryan, Jennifer. 1995. The Garifuna and Creole culture of Belize explosion of punta rock. In Popular music: style and identity, edited by Will Straw, Stacey Johnson, Rebecca Sullivan, Paul Friedlander, and Gary Kennedy, 243-248. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Popular Music Studies. Montreal: International Association for the Study of Popular Music.

Whitmer, David. 2000. Garifuna beat: David Whitmer went to Honduras in search of drumming lessons, punta style. Folk Roots 21, no. 10: 33-35, 87.

Selected Discography

Aziatic. The Re birth. Sta-Tic Productions (1999).

Chatuye. Heartbeat in the music. Arhoolie 383 (1992).

Lita Ariran. Honduras: Songs of the Garifuna. JVC VICG-5337-2 (1993).

Martinez, Aurelio. Inocencia. Ranchez Brothers Entertainment RBO206.

Mohobob. Mohobob. Stonetree Records STR11.

Original Turtle Shell Band. In the beginning . . . Gema P2001.

Palacio, Andy. Til da mawnin! Stonetree Records GLP 29 (1996).

Paranda: Africa in Central America. Detour 3984-27303-2 (1999).

Punta Rebels. On fire. WaDaani Records WDR 2000.

Ramos, Chico. Thank I Neibu. Cedar Street Records CR 1026.

Rhodee [Rhodel Castillo]. In exile. V-Groove Music CD105.

Ugurau. Punta rock ambassadors. ISF Records 2007.


Gimme punta-rock . . . Belizean music. Directed by Peter Coonradt and Suzanne Coonradt. 60 min. Documentary. Redlands, Calif.: Coonradt Productions, 1994.

The Garifuna journey. Directed by Kathy L. Berger and Andrea E. Leland. 46 min. Documentary. Hohokus, N.J.: New Day Films, 1998.