At times the sweet sounds of Belize included Toucan tweets, the click of Blue Crabs walking on the dock, the zip of the blender making cocktails, the dinosaur sounding scream of the Howler Monkey warning its peers, Hummingbirds dive bombing each other, ocean waves lapping, the ancient Mayans whispering their secrets at their temples, the sizzling of taco meat, marginally cared for vehicles with numerous creaks and squeaks, the buzzing of the mosquitoes, and…music.
What does one expect to hear in Belize? Bob Marley is #1. Drum music on the Southern Coast? Maybe local music? Perhaps a little Michael Jackson or Beyonce maybe?
Well, immediately upon renting a car and embarking on our journey, the first radio station we tuned in to was playing The Wind Beneath My Wings by the lovely and talented Bette Midler. High on the excitement of a new journey and the lack of sleep that accompanies a red-eye flight my husband and I sang this song to each other like the big dorks we are.
During the next ninety minute journey we heard the smooth stylings of Kenny Rogers, Neal Diamond, and Michael Bolton. This led us to believe that the Belizean people took custody of a 1980’s repossessed radio station without ever updating its playlist. We were really enjoying the music time machine though.
During our first evening meal, on day one, we again heard Bette Midler and had a good laugh about it. Over the ensuing 12 day trip we heard Bette Midler, and no I am not kidding, a minimum of one time per day if not more. We started joking that Bette Midler either (a) lived in Belize, (b) owned the radio station(s), or (c) was the head of the Belizean mafia.
Probably about three-quarters of the way through the trip we heard her song one evening at dinner and, as always, had a laugh about it. As we were riding our bikes home that night we were discussing that they must have 80s American music on some sort of loop in the tourist areas and radios which was the only way to explain it. Well, that idea was dashed when we rode by a local hut with no front door where a large number of ladies were inside having a party. What were they blasting loudly and proudly and singing along to? You guessed…it Bette Midler’s The Wind Beneath My Wings. My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
Good ol’ Bob Marley is also pervasive in Belize even more so in the coastal regions and out on the Cayes. I love me some Bob Marley. I mean what’s not to like, right? Something dawned on me one night at a local restaurant with a famous Bob Marley concert video played on a loop. The poor wait staff must listen to this over and over again. I wondered if this bothered them? I mean Bob Marley is a God-like figure in areas like this. I asked a sweet young waitress if Bob’s video playing relentlessly bothered her relaying that as a young person working retail in America we revolted to our managers against certain music being overplayed. Her response, “Bob’s music is like piss in my ear.” Tourism has ruined an icon for the tourist wait staff. I am sorry wait staff. I truly am. It’s not Bob’s fault.
While the older 80s Pop music is obviously pervasive in Belize it is impossible not to notice that current music transcends many cultures and countries. I heard Beyonce, Rhiana, Katie Perry, and other popular songs while there as well. Many young people play it on their cell phones, on speaker no less, for everyone to hear. I wonder if these artists have any idea that their music is being played in every corner of the world? I wonder if they have any idea that music can be one thing that connects us all together even if we don’t speak the same language? I wonder if Bette Midler has any idea how popular and loved she is in Belize? I hope she does.