The Atlantic Lowlands Feature

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Dance the Punta

You won't quite be able to put your finger on what it is: It's not reggae. It's not salsa. It's not hip-hop. But the punta resembles all three, and you'll hear the music everywhere along the Caribbean coast, here and in neighboring Belize and Honduras.

Scholars surmise that the name punta is actually a corruption of the word bunda, meaning "buttocks" in the Mandé language of West Africa, from where the music was imported. The name fits: dancers remain nearly stationary from the waist up, but engage in intense hip gyrations, right to left in a circular motion, while dancing on the balls of their feet. Historically, drums, rattles, and turtle shells provided the percussion-only accompaniment; these days, synthesizers and guitars have taken over that role, creating an all-the-rage style of music known as punta rock. Garífuna lyrics were the one-time norm; English and Spanish have become more common, helping to propel the punta beyond this region to prominence in World Music playlists.

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