America’s Music Ambassadors, the Zydeco Band Mo Mojo, Jams in San Pedro and…It’s Awesome

Belize is a musical country – the people here enjoy music from a really REALLY young age.  It’s a regular thing to see a baby bouncing the punta on her dad’s lap exhibiting better rhythm than I ever have.

And as our country is such a cultural mash-up, so is the music.  Influences from Mexico – ranchero, mariachi, the Mestizo marimba – from Africa and the Caribbean – punta and soca, from Mayan culture, from the early radio stations in the country that played classic Country from the US and modern music like rap, hip-hop, soul, pop, reggaeton, reggae…it’s all Belize music.

Most people love music and love to dance.  And yesterday, a band called Mo Mojo came in from the states as musical ambassadors.  To show a bit of US cultural music to Belize and to play along with local artists.  The result was pretty amazing and beautiful.

The stage set up earlier in the day.

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This is a US State department program…who knew?  And the program is a revival of the Jazz Ambassadors that went around the world during the Cold War.  Dizzy Gillespie…Count Basie…Benny Goodman…a seriously cool program and some BIG shoes to fill.  There are SOME amazing pictures from that time.

I respectfully share this photo from the New York Times of Dizzy Gillespie visiting a children’s hospital in Cairo in the early 60s.  If you click on the link, you can see a whole gallery of awesome photos.

dizzyAnyway…the program continues and last year 345 bands send in applications to be musical ambassadors.  The qualifications?  That they are Americans playing American music.  Jazz, rap, soul, country…Zydeco.  The 345 was narrowed down to 45 for live auditions and then 10 who will be travelling this year.

Zydeco, I will admit, was a genre that I had never heard of…but once I heard it playing, it’s American thru and thru.  Fiddles, harmonicas, washboards, the trumpet…folksy fun celebratory music that anyone can enjoy.

And maybe the coolest part of the program?  Not only is Mo Mojo here – first stop Belize and then on to more countries – to perform, but they are here to work with local artists, particularly kids.  To encourage, teach and inspire.

I love it and went to meet the band at Fido’s for an early afternoon jam session before the bigger performance.

The music is described perfectly as “Party-Gras” and the musicians are wildly talented.  Before I show the pictures of the performances here in San Pedro.  Here is a list of the others in Belize.

Jerry Jeff Walker crowd

From Fido’s.  Natalie Arceo and high school senior Trisha Stokes.  Both were amazing.  And taught the singers/artists from Mo Mojo some folk songs.

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And Trisha did her OWN SONG.  It was incredibly impressive.

IMG_6306Check out this Post/video on Facebook by U.S. Embassy Belize.  It ‘s an old Belizean folk song that the band did with local talents Natalie Arceo, Trisha Stokes and Terryl Godoy.  LOVED it.

And some pictures from the evening OFFICIAL show.
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They brought some of the talented high school kids that they had worked with earlier in the day up on stage.

John Harvey Jr. – You can always find him helping his dad, Sr., out at Robin’s Chicken.

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And then Natalie’s choir came up to help on another song.

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What fun.  Budding artists seeing professional, talented musicians at work – making a living and traveling with music.  Inspiring.

Bottom Line:  Go see Mo Mojo.  They are AMAZING.  I talked to visitors, expats and locals (many who didn’t even know the concert was happening until the music was heard all over town) and they loved it.

The only things I would change in San Pedro are the venue.  Let’s do this in Central Park – on the main thoroughfare so that everyone knows about it!  And let’s advertise in advance.

This was a special night in San Pedro and by the end of the show…there was a nice crowd having a grand time.






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  • cb

    FYI, a mojo hand comes from possessing a sparkle stick off of a sparkleberry tree, officially known as a vaccineum arboreum Marsh. The blues men knew the power of this tree because there was a tribe in east Texas where the women each had three to five husbands. Their chieftess, angelina (angelique to the French) kidnapped the governor of Loiuisiana (back when the french claimed this portion of the states) and kept him as a husband for almost three years before he got word back to his troops. Angelina national forest is named in her honor. Never underestimate the power of a woman or a plant.

    I hope the Zydeco music was accompanied by Zydeco dance. That is lots of fun.