Tag Archives: Andy Palacio

Garifuna Music

Garifuna Collective – Photo by Peter Rakossy

Garifuna is a unique culture based on the Caribbean coast of Central America (Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras) that blends elements of West African and Native Caribbean heritage.

The Garifuna people originated when two large Dutch ships, filled with a delivery of West African slaves, sunk off the coast of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1635. Half of the Africans survived and intermingled with the indigenous Caribs of the region, creating a new hybrid culture.

Fiercely independent, the Garifuna community resisted French and British colonization, and were forcibly exiled to the Caribbean coast of Central America. Some were segregated and held onto their traditions and language, while others blended with the local predominant culture.

The Garifuna developed a unique culture that incorporates African traditions of music, dance, religious rites and ceremonies, Native American farming, hunting, and fishing techniques; and an African and Arawak influenced language.

Now living mainly along the Caribbean coast of the Central American countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the Garifuna culture, recognized by UNESCO since March 2001 as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, displays many influences of its African heritage. This is evident when comparing their music with the indigenous music of the West African societies from which their ancestors originated.

Garifuna Collective – Photo by Peter Rakossy

The Garifuna style of music relies heavily on call and response patterns. These patterns are less overlapping than many traditional ones found in Africa, but nonetheless the Garifunas’ leader/chorus organization is very consistent with those of African styles. Garifuna music relies heavily on the drum, and in many instances their music is dictated by it.

The drums of the Garifuna are usually made of hardwoods that are uniformly shaped and carved out in the centers. The ends of the drums are covered with skins from the peccary, deer, or sheep. These drums are always played with the hands, and some drummers have been known to wrap metal wires around the drum heads to give them a snare-like sound. Some musicians accompany the drums with gourd shakers called sisira, and even instruments like the guitar, flute, and violin have been adopted from early French, English, and Spanish folk music, as well as Jamaican and Haitian Afro-Caribbean styles.

Aurelio Martinez in 2010 at Forde Festival in Norway – Photo by Angel Romero

To the Garifuna, song and dances are an integral part of their culture. These song and dance styles display a wide range of subjects like work songs, social dances and ancestral traditions. A very popular dance style is called punta, which is usually performed at wakes, holidays and parties. This involves plenty of hip movements.

Garifuna Musicians:

Andy Palacio, Aurelio Martinez, Paul Nabor, The Garifuna Collective, Umalali

Garifuna Musical Genres:

Parranda, punta rock.

Garifuna Recordings:

Various Artists – Traditional Music of the Garifuna of Belize (Folkways Records, 1982)
Andy Palacio – Greatest Hits (1979)
Andy Palacio – Keimoun (Beat on) ( Stonetree Records, 1995)
Andy Palacio – Til Da Mawnin ( Stonetree Records, 1997)
Aurelio Martinez – Garifuna Soul ‎(Stonetree Records, 2004)
Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective – Watina (2007)
Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project (Cumbancha, 2008)
Aurelio Martinez – Garifuna Afro-Combo ‎(Society of Sound Music, 2010)
Garifuna Music – Music From Honduras, Vol. 2 (Caprice Records, 2010)
Aurelio Martinez – Laru Beya (Stonetree Records/Real World Records, 2011)
The Garifuna Collective – Ayó (Stonetree/Cumbancha, 2014)
Aurelio Martinez – Landini (Real World Records, 2014)
Ibimeni – Garifuna traditional music from Guatemala (Sub Rosa, 2016)
Aurelio Martinez – Darandi (Stonetree Records/Real World Records, 2016)
The Garifuna Collective – Aban (Stonetree/Cumbancha, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Andy Palacio

Andy Palacio – Photo by Yuquilla

Andy Palacio was not only the most popular musician in Belize, he was also a serious music and cultural archivist with a deep commitment to preserving his unique Garifuna culture. Long a leading proponent of Garifuna popular music and a tireless advocate for the maintenance of the Garifuna language and traditions, Palacio was one of the founders of the Garifuna Collective.

Born and raised in the coastal village of Barranco, Palacio grew up listening to traditional Garifuna music as well as imported sounds coming over the radio from neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, the Caribbean and the United States. “Music was always a part of daily life,” said Palacio, “It was the soundtrack that we lived to.” Along with some of his peers, he joined local bands even while in high school and began developing his own voice, performing covers of popular Caribbean and Top 40 songs.

However, it was while working with a literacy project on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast in 1980 and discovering that the Garifuna language and culture was steadily dying in that country, that a strong cultural awareness took hold and his approach to music became more defined. “I saw what had happened to my people in Nicaragua. The cultural erosion I saw there deeply affected my outlook,” he said, “and I definitely had to react to that reality.”

His reaction took the form of diving deeper into the language and rhythms of the Garifuna, a unique cultural blend of West African and Indigenous Carib and Arawak Indian language and heritage. “It was a conscious strategy. I felt that music was an excellent medium to preserve the culture. I saw it as a way of maintaining cultural pride and self-esteem, especially in young people.”

Palacio became a leading figure in a growing renaissance of young Garifuna intellectuals who were writing poetry and songs in their native language. He saw the emergence of an upbeat, popular dance form based on Garifuna rhythms that became known as punta rock and enthusiastically took part in developing the form.

Palacio began performing his own songs and gained stature as a musician and energetic Garifuna artist. In 1987, he was able to hone his skills after being invited to work in England with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community arts organization.

Returning home to Belize with new skills and a four track recording system, he helped found Sunrise, an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and distributing Belizean music. While his academic background and self-scholarship allowed for his on-going documentation of Garifuna culture through lyrics and music, it has been his exuberance as a performer that gained him world-wide recognition.

Since 1988, Andy Palacio gained enormous popularity both in Belize and abroad, playing before audiences in the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe and Asia. These include performances at the Transmusicales Encounters in France, Carifesta in Trinidad and Tobago and in St. Kitts-Nevis, World Music Expo Essen 2002, the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia, Antillanse Feesten in Belgium, HeimatKlange in Germany, the World Traditional Performing Arts Festival in Japan and several others in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Colombia and the U.K.

Around 2002, Belizean producer/musician Ivan Duran, Palacio’s longtime collaborator and founder of Belize’s pioneer label Stonetree Records, convinced Palacio that he should focus on less commercial forms of Garifuna music and look more deeply into its soul and roots.

Duran and Palacio set out to create an all-star, multi-generational ensemble of some of the best Garifuna musicians from Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The Collective united elder statesmen such as legendary Garifuna composer Paul Nabor, with young parranda star Aurelio Martinez from Honduras. Rather then focusing on danceable styles like punta rock, the Collective explores the more soulful side of Garifuna music, such as the Latin-influenced parranda as well as the punta and gunjei rhythms.

Andy Palacio – Watina

Watina, the debut album of Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective, was released in February of 2007 on the Cumbancha record label. The initial recording sessions for this exceptional album took place over a 4-month period in an improvised studio inside a thatch-roofed cabin by the sea in the small village of Hopkins, Belize. It was an informal environment, where the musicians spent many hours playing together late into the night, honing the arrangements of the songs that would eventually end up on this album.

While the traditions provided the inspiration, the musicians also added contemporary elements that helped give the songs relevance to their modern context. After the sessions, Ivan Duran worked tirelessly back at his studio to craft what is surely the pinnacle of Garifuna music production to date. “The idea of the collective has been a long time in the making,” said Palacio. “The chemistry of working with different Garifuna artists, not only within Belize but also from Guatemala and Honduras, was quite appealing and very satisfying to the soul.”

Andy Palacio lived in Belize where he worked in promoting Culture and the Arts. In December 2004, he was appointed Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History.

Andy Palacio died January 19, 2008, of a heart stroke.

Discography:

Greatest Hits (1979)
Keimoun (beat on) (1995)
Til Da Mawnin (1997)
Wátina (Cumbancha, 2007)

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