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.
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.
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.
For six days in a row, Duke Performances presented a series of concerts last week called Black Atlantic. The program brought to Durham, North Carolina, superb examples of African music and artists from the African diaspora. Duke Performances staged the concerts at two venues outside of Duke University to bring the music closer to the community: Motorco Music Hall and the Carolina Theatre.
The first Black Atlantic concert took place on Monday, March 26th, at Motorco. It featured traditional bachata artist Joan Soriano from the Dominican Republic. It was unmistakably a seductive dance event, with various dance instructors and practitioners enjoying and dancing to Soriano’s songs. A sizable group of Dominicans and other Latin Americans joined the party.
The second performance, on Tuesday, March 27th presented acclaimed Haitian vocalist Emeline Michel at Motorco. Her style combines jazz and pop and her drummer incorporated addictive Haitian beats.
Ned Sublette, a well-known American composer, musician, record producer, musicologist, author and founder of Qbadisc, who attended the first concerts, said: “On the second night of the festival the super-sharp, utterly genuine Emeline Michel, freshly arrived from Haiti, played with a tight, professional 4-piece (including guitarist Dominic James) and an internationalized personal vision rooted in her home town of Gonaïves, with an overlay of music study in Detroit and a breadth of experience in various world cities. I’ve heard her music from her first album going forward, but I’d never had the chance to meet her; what a thrill. The Haitian public in North Carolina brought their shot of love to the room.”
The concert on Wednesday, March 28th, featured Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo from Venezuela in the packed-out Motorco Music Hall. This Afro-Venezuelan ensemble of singers, drummers and dancers brought Venezuelan pride to a large group of compatriots who attended the event. Durham-based Venezuelan author and actor Miguel Chirinos provided details about the ensemble: “This group is originally from a town called El Clavo, Miranda State in northwestern Venezuela. Their music is based on percussion, especially the Barlovento drums; it’s typical music from the coastal towns of the country.
Talking with Betsayda, she told me that they have been making music for over 30 years and the music is the accompaniment during the processions of San Juan Bautista [Saint John the Baptist], patron of the Afro-Venezuelan community. In addition to participating in the different religious festivities, they had the opportunity to record their first CD, which includes their main compositions and which they recorded “under a mango tree”. They are also making a documentary where they will tell the story of the town El Clavo, its people and its music!”
Ned Sublette articulated the following: “I expected to enjoy it, but didn’t know how rave-about-it good it would turn out to be.
Machado is a strong frontwoman, and the ensemble is first-rate. Their well-composed show was a model of how to work with traditional acoustic instruments in a percussion-based concert setting. Carrying a lot of instruments around on tour is troublesome and expensive, but they did it. This show included an Afro-Venezuelan instrument, the quitiplas [a set of bamboo sticks played vertically], that you never get to hear outside of Venezuela, as well as the furro (or furruco, a friction drum) energetically holding down the bass, along with a variety of drums. The voices of the group – five men and three women, all beautifully dressed – authoritatively affirmed melodies in well-tuned multi-part harmony, in hypnotic countertime with the drums, giving the group its own polyrhythmic texture. The longer it went on, the more the room got caught up in it.
Bad-ass Durham conguera Beverly Botsford got up with them for a hot minute, and that sounded good to me, too. It was all so compelling I couldn’t be bothered to go back to the bar to refill my delicious pint of Bell’s Porter when it ran out 20 minutes into the set.”
The fourth concert of the series, on Thursday, March 29th at Motorco, presented three of Mali’s finest musicians. Three jelis (griots) from well-known families displayed virtuosity and charm to a full house.
Chapel Hill-based producer and singer Bob Haddad, founder of the Music of the World label said: “Trio Da Kali is an extraordinary group of griot musicians from Mali. Fode Lassana Diabate plays his balafon (wooden xylophone) in the most fluid of ways; a true virtuoso. Mamadou Kouyate’s bass ngoni (West African lute) is rhythmic, percussive and entrancing, and Hawa Kasse Mady Diabate is the most accomplished female griot vocalist in recent years. Her placement of notes, the way she shapes her improvisations, and the way she quavers her voice, are truly outstanding. Together, these three musicians create a sound that is inspiring, evocative, mesmerizing and uplifting.”
The last concert at the Motorco venue, on Friday, March 30th, highlighted the music of the Garifuna community. In this case, it was the best known Garifuna artist at this time, Aurelio Martinez, from Honduras. He delivered an exciting set of songs promoting peace and rights for the Garifuna people.
The final Black Atlantic show took place on Saturday, March 31st at a much larger venue, the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham. Flamenco vocalist Diego El Cigala presented his latest project, a collaboration with salsa musicians. Soleir Gordon-Shaefer, host and producer of La Tertulia con Solangel on WHUP in Hillsborough said: “He’s one of my favorites. I totally enjoyed the concert, it was more than I expected since he not only promoted his Indestructible CD, but also sang other songs that were requested. The performance of the chorus and the musicians was tremendous, especially the pianist. It was a magical night with the audience’s euphoria.”
Aaron Greenwald, executive director of Duke Performances, revealed to World Music Central that the intention is to continue the Black Atlantic series next year. We are already looking forward to more of this superb series.
Duke Performances will present a Black Atlantic, a captivating six-day world music festival, celebrating the music of Africa and the African diaspora. The festival takes place the last week of March 2018 at several venues in Durham, North Carolina .
The extraordinary program includes some of the finest artists from Africa and the Caribbean. The festival opens with acclaimed traditional Dominican bachata musician Joan Soriano. Next is one of Haiti’s top female performers, singer-songwriter Emeline Michel.
Afro-Venezuelan vocalist Betsayda Machado and her backing band La Parranda El Clavo are one of the sensations in the world music scene.
Mali produces an impressive amount of high quality talent. Trio da Kali is one of the new stars of the Malian scene. It’s a collaboration between some of Mali’s leading jeli (griot) musical families, Hawa Kassé Mady, daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté; bala player Lassana Diabaté; and ngoni master Mamadou Kouyaté.
Honduran composer, singer-songwriter and activist Aurelio (Aurelio Martínez) is currently the most influential Garifuna artist. Aurelio will be presenting his new album Darandi released on Peter Gabriel’s Real world Records.
The last concert of Black Atlantic will present flamenco star Diego El Cigala with top salsa musicians. His most recent album Indestructible is a tribute to salsa music.
Black Atlantic Schedule
Joan Soriano (Dominican Republic)
Monday, March 26, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall
Emeline Michel (Haiti)
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall
Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall
Trio da Kali (Mali)
Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall
Friday, March 30, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall
Diego El Cigala (Spain/Dominican Republic)
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Carolina Theatre of Durham
It is a long time since I have contributed reviews to this site. The reasons are many, varied and not a matter of public record. They’re also quite boring, so you wouldn’t want to hear about them in any case. My tendency had been to write reviews in groups united by some sort of genre, style or perceived common-ground theme. But I presently find myself so far behind that the disconnected overview I am about to subject you to is the only approach that will effectively close the gap. Apologies, and away we go.
As a longtime fan of Afrobeat music, I was greatly interested when I heard that Chicago Afrobeat Project would be collaborating with drummer Tony Allen. Allen, after all, was the man behind the kit for all of Fela Kuti’s groundbreaking records and was just as instrumental (pun absolutely intended) in creating the Afrobeat style. What Goes Up (Chicago Afrobeat Project, 2017) does not disappoint. Allen’s militantly polyrhythmic drumming is as spot on as ever. He also brings the experimental feel of his recent works, so the album isn’t simply formulaic Afrobeat but rather an effective blend of contemporary textures (including measured doses of rap) and traditionally-grounded grooves.
Horns, stinging keyboards and no-nonsense vocals (largely female) share most of the upper mix with Allen’s drums, while bass, guitars and percussion provide covert menace beneath. The lyrical unrest typical of Afrobeat is very much present in songs that address racial and gender inequity, political nonsense, media trickery and the belief that the high and mighty will be toppled sooner or later. None of the tracks are even five minutes in length (another departure from the once-usual Afrobeat template) and lest you think it’s all message-laden heaviness, “Afro Party” will handily prove otherwise. If this is the current state of Afrobeat, it’s in a healthy state indeed.
While Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Colombian and Afro-Peruvian music have all been getting their due of late, Afro-Venezuelan music hasn’t fared as well. Perhaps the level of upheaval in that nation has some bearing, but now there’s a degree of redress to be found with Loe Loa: Rural Recordings Under the Mango Tree (Odelia, 2017) by Betsayda Machado and Parranda El Clavo.
Percussion and vocals are all you hear on this field recording (albeit captured with modern technology), and given that Betsayda and her many-strong ensemble are descended from escaped slaves who lived in hidden village communities, the drumming and call-and-response voices ring with an air of both celebration and defiance. This is thunderously rousing music, binding in its spell and guaranteed to raise your spirits to the highest heights. Alan Lomax is surely smiling from the Great Beyond.
Similarly, Transmision En La Erita Meta (Sendero Music, 2017) is all about drums and voices, though the drums here are more than instruments. They are a trio of sacred Cuban bata, vessels of sound created to invoke and seek the blessings of the deities known as orishas, belief in which originated among the Yoruba people of West Africa and survived the slavery era. The worship system of Santeria was later syncretized with the saints of Catholicism, but purer forms of orisha worship endure in Cuba and elsewhere.
Spoken testimonies are interspersed among the 21 tracks on the CD, and if your understanding of Spanish is as non-existent as mine, the hypnotically complex pulses of the double-headed, bell-festooned bata and reverent vocal chants are all you’ll need to connect to the Divine. The disc comes with an extensive booklet that tells in great detail how the story of the particular drums used fits into the overall tradition that inspired their use. It’s as absorbing to read as the drumming is to listen to. Curl up and absorb yourself in both.
Keeping close geographically as well as covering more music that came about in the age of slavery, Darandi (Real World/Stonetree, 2016) by Honduran Garifuna master musician Aurelio, captures him at his raw best. Following a performance at the U.K. WOMAD festival, he took his band to the in-house studio at Real World Records and recorded a dozen live-and-direct tracks that are a kind of greatest hits from his three previous studio albums.
Acoustic and electric guitars, bass and a pair of snare-buzzed traditional hand drums provide the accompaniment to Aurelio’s nimble voice and the glorious wraparound of his three backing vocalists. The African roots of Garifuna music resound in the highlife-like guitar chiming and feverish drumming, but Spanish and Central American indigenous elements are just as present. I’ll leave it to you to research the Garifuna origin story if you don’t already know it. I’m too busy listening to this excellent music.
The liner notes of A Je (Riverboat Records/World Music Network, 2017), the latest by Monoswezi, describe them as “African-Nordic jazz alchemists.” And who am I to argue? Such wording makes my task of describing their music that much easier. I’m fairly sure this is the group’s third album, and the most immediately striking addition to their sonic brew is the harmonium, that hand-pumped organ so central to Pakistani Qawwali devotional music. The instrument gives a penetrating mystical edge to Monoswezi’s already very fine fusion of Mozambican, Norwegian, Swedish and Zimbabwean sounds. As before, I’d peg the rhythmic side of things as mostly African, though melodically it’s the punctuation of instruments like clarinet, banjo and the prior- mentioned harmonium that add the welcome Scandinavian chill and outward reach.
New to the lineup is Sidiki Camara, a calabash and ngoni (lute) player whose name I’ve seen in the credits of many a West African music album and who brings an extra layer of spark to this one. A Je is Monoswezi’s best yet, full of propulsive, hands-on percussion, adventurous but mutually perfect combinations of lead instruments (such as banjo and mbira plucking happily side-by-side) and vocals that sound like jelis singing tales of recent trips to Arctic zones and beyond. Consistently great listening through and through, so count it a must-have.
Closer to the African mainland (just to the west of it, specifically) we find the latest up-and-coming singer from Cape Verde, Elida Almeida. She scores on Kebrada (Lusafrica, 2017) which despite her young age finds her fully adept at the heart-stirring nuances of singing in familiar Afro-Portuguese styles like funana and coladera, mixing things up with some Latin and Caribbean inflections. Nothing revolutionary, just great music for the many out there who love the sounds Cape Verdeans have brought to the world. The fact that one of the contributing musicians is recently deceased Malagasy accordion master Regis Gizavo makes it even greater and more than a little bittersweet.
Sometimes three pieces are all you need. Such is the case with Stringquake, whose album Cascade (Stringquake, 2016) blends Amelia Romano’s harp, Misha Khalikulov’s cello and Josh Mellinger’s percussion into instrumentals that range from intimately moody to absolutely grand. The two stringed instruments complement each other to perfection, an intertwining mesh that trades leading roles of tonal beauty while keeping pace with a percussion backdrop that includes cajon, frame drum, tabla and steel pan. You can rightly call some of this chamber music, some of it jazz fusion (like the cover of Don Cherry’s “Guinea”) and some of it world music in the not-otherwise-easily-classified sense. But it’s all beautifully, passionately rendered and stands up to repeated listens that continue to impress.
If an unconventional musical foursome is more your speed, check out Astrid Kuljanic on her release Riva (One Trick Dog Records, 2017). Her band, comprised of accordionist Ben Rosenblum, bassist Mat Muntz and percussionist Rogerio Boccato, is called the Transatlantic Exploration Company and her own background of having been born in Yugoslavia, studying music in Italy and Manhattan and finding inspiration on the Adriatic island of Cres makes the name perfectly fitting. And not surprisingly, the music fits the moniker as well. Kuljanic’s swooping, versatile vocals make her sound at home singing reconfigured traditional Croatian songs, scatty jazz pieces, samba-inspired charmers, a quirky original or two and a completely unique take on Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.” She and her players sound like they’re having a blast and the music is again hard to classify, but the whole thing is head-spinning good. Available from www.onetrickdogrecords.com
Lovers of sevdah, the often-melancholic traditional music from Bosnia and Herzegovina, will rejoice in Divanhana’s Live in Mostar (ARC Music, 2017). The band sports instrumentation that only bows partly to tradition (accordion, electric piano, electric bass, drums, percussion and violin) and livens up their “Balkan blues” with jazzy breaks and klezmer-like seasonings. The achingly gorgeous lead vocals of Naida Catic (particularly on the unaccompanied “Daurko Mila”) are clearly a major asset, but the entire band rises to the occasion.
Given how crystalline the sound is, you might easily mistake the disc for a studio album until the audience reaction reminds you that a lucky bunch of folks were able to enjoy this live and direct. And the CD comes with the next best thing to having been there: a DVD featuring live performances and interviews. Get this and savor a double dose of sevdah at its progressive best.
If your collection of Cuban music isn’t complete (and whose is?), pick up Cuba! Cuba! (Putumayo, 2017). The various artists here are mostly in classic sound mode and some are younger artists carrying the torch for that classic sound. Still, the Putumayo folks like to throw in a wild card or two, and one surprise here is the unearthed instrumental “Guajira” featuring legends Alfredo Valdes Jr. on piano and trumpeter “Chocolate” Armenteros, recorded in Peru in 1964. That track serves as a kind of guidepost for the other fine singers and players on the disc, including veterans Roberto Torres and Armando Garzon (the latter with the ever-venerable and hypnotic “Chan Chan”), Miami-based young traditionalists Sonlokos and the always invigorating Jose Conde y Ola Fresca. This one’s got sizzle to spare.
“Chan Chan” is also the opening track on Mista Savona Presents Havana Meets Kingston (17 North Parade/VP, 2017), a brilliantly realized Cuban/Jamaican fusion in which son meets one drop, congas patter away alongside nyabinghi drums, Spanish-accented troubadours trade off with Trench Town chanters and both sides nice up the party. Some songs are more one locale than the other and employ a key element (like deejay chatter or regional horn riffs) that make the connection, while most are seamless mashups that are simply thrilling, like veteran guitarist Ernest Ranglin joyously picking his way through “410 San Miguel” with pianist Rolando Luna nimbly matching the vibe (and that’s before the dub effects even kick in).
Some of the other participants on the album are Sly and Robbie, Barbarito Torres, Changuito, Bongo Herman, Julito Padron and a chorus of notables that includes Leroy Sibbles, Lutan Fyah and Price Alla. That’s just the tip of things. No other written words will do justice to this landmark release recorded at Havana’s Egrem Studios under the guidance of producer/arranger/keyboardist Jake Savona. Highly recommended.
Grandly combining Italian traditional music with jolts of contemporary Western pop, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino strike a tasty, dance-ready balance on Canzoniere (Ponderosa Music Records, 2017). CGS are one of those bands that can seemingly do it all, mixing accordion, uniformly rhythmic clatter and a reggae feel on “Ientu,” infusing “Moi” with a start-and-stop techno stomp that dramatically punctuates the traded vocals, builds simplicity into complexity in nothing flat with help from guitarist Justin Adams on “Aiora” and erects walls of sound throughout using instruments and voices that are organically and electronically symbiotic. I’m not sure if the term “mind-blowing” is still in the accepted lexicon, but this album fits that description in a most satisfying way.
Scotland’s Mary Ann Kennedy gives us An Dan: Gaelic Songs for a Modern World (ARC Music, 2017), and a very nice lot they are. Her voice is grand and soaring and the arrangements, heavy on strings and Kennedy’s own piano, match to near-perfection. The lyrics are from a combination of literary sources while the musical arrangements are again Kennedy’s work, so the whole thing has an air of tradition mixed with vision.
Those who appreciate the familiarity of Gaelic music will be spellbound even as subtleties like the South African melody that underpins “Song for John MacDonald” ring true from a world beyond. For pure beauty, you can’t beat this.
Aurelio Martinez takes up space in the room even when he is seated.
He speaks without hesitation and with big clear gestures. I had wanted
to speak with him ever since catching an ecstatic live performance at
the Global Beat Festival in New York a couple of years ago. By the end
of that concert everyone was on their feet.
Aurelio is a guitarist, percussionist, composer and singer. Darandi is his fourth album (released on Real World Records in February 2017). It represents the best of his thirty years in music. This album captures the live sound of his performance. The musicians were all recorded in one room. So, its lively and real, rather than the precise, overdubbed sound of his previous albums.
To understand Aurelio’s music, you need to know his background. He
grew up and spent his childhood in Plaplaya, Honduras, surrounded by
Garifuna music. Indeed, he is one of the Garifuna peoples’ strongest
Ambassadors. Garifuna music is closer to West African music than to
rock; it’s closer to folk than New Orleans jazz. Sometimes, it’s as
melancholy as the blues, but always it owes more to Africa than to
Much of the music has a percussive undercurrent that both grounds it
and helps to propel the music forward. The segunda is a bass drum that
is at the core of much Garifuna music. Aurelio has a very evocative
voice, even if as a listener you cannot understand his vocal, you feel
there is true heart in what he is singing
He is a master of Paranda music, a sub-genre within Garifuna music,
that is blues-like in feel, and its lyrics, like the blues, often convey
a lively commentary on society.
The Garifuna people are the descendants of African slaves who were
first bought to St. Vincent in the West Indies and the Arawak Indians.
While in St. Vincent, they fought the English colonizers, who killed
many of them, the ones who survived were taken to Punta Gorda, Belize. I
spoke to him recently about his music, his childhood, and the Garifuna.
His conversation is as upbeat as his music.
DJL: Can you tell me about your childhood?
AM: Yes, my mother was a singer and composer of Garifuna music. She represents fifty to a hundred percent of my music, even now when I compose. She is my best mentor. My father was a guitarist. My grandfather too was a musician with the local community band. My music school was my family.
DJL: How did you come to play guitar?
AM: I made my first guitar out of fish line and pieces of wood. (He
chuckles.) You know how you come to find toys sometimes. I was about six
years old. I first wanted to play the saxophone, because my uncle was a
saxophonist. But when I was 15 years old, my Dad, who had moved to
America, sent me my first professional guitar.
DJL: The biography on your website describes you as a singer,
guitarist and percussionist, but one aspect that is sadly missing, is
your incredible dancing. You can get everyone in the audience on their
feet, even coming up on the stage to take turns dancing. Sparks fly
during a performance. Can you talk to me about your dancing?
AM: Yes, you know when I hear drums, it is impossible for me not to
dance. I used to hold onto my grandmother’s skirt as she danced at
parties. And you know the dancing is sensual, I was watching all of that
as a young boy. I was taking it all in. In Garifuna culture, we have
celebrations where both the young and old come together. When I was
little – seven or eight – drumming was my special weapon.
I would say to the adults, ‘if you are not inviting me to the party, I
am not playing drums.’ I used the fact that I could play percussion to
negotiate invitations to come to parties.
DJL: What would you like to say about Garifuna culture to someone who knows nothing about it?
AM: On April 12th this year, we will have our annual celebration that
marks 286 years of our living in Central America. Garifuna people are
extended into four places: Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. We
have a huge Garifuna population in the United States, half a million
people. We have food, language, spirituality and music that are all
unique to us.
DJL: Are you fighting to preserve this culture?
AM: Yes, of course, the government in Honduras is a threat. They want to convert our community to a tourist place by building hotels on our land. Previously, the Christians said we were diabolical. We have been forbidden to speak our language. We face discrimination and oppression. Yet, we are keeping this culture alive. My band takes our pride around the world, we convey to people a culture that is both powerful and rich. The soul of Garifuna is about bringing people together, in peace and harmony. I am a spirit, the music comes through me. I want to be true in my music. I sing what I feel.
DJL: You met Andy Palacio, who was a known Garifuna musician
and a leading activist, who fought hard for the people, before dying at
aged 47. Can you describe him?
AM: Yes, we met in Honduras. He was a brother. It was a friendship.
We agreed on many things about the Garifuna people, we saw eye to eye,
and he loved his culture. We worked on music together. When I first
stepped on the beach in Senegal, West Africa, after he died, I was
moved. I knew that Andy would have been there with me in Senegal, if he
were still alive. His spirit was with me that day on the beach.
DJL: This album Darandi represents your whole career, why now?
AM: It is about closing one part of my musical life, and a renewal,
moving into more powerful music. I want to work with other, different
musicians, who play jazz or Afropop. I want to open the music up.
DJL: Yalifu is a powerful track on this album. Yalifu is a song of longing. Can you talk about it?
AM: Yalifu means pelican, and in the song I ask, “pelican, lend me
your wings so that I can fly.” This is a love song about wanting to fly
to my father, who at that time was far from me in America. It was
written as I was remembering being young in Honduras and missing my
father. The song also speaks to bigger issues of immigration, borders,
loss, and longing, how people should have the chance to move freely
around the world.
DJL: Landini is also another evocative track.
AM: Yes, it is a song about my reconnecting to my home town,
Plaplaya. When I sing that song, the image of my home town appears in my
mind: the river, the birds, the boats coming in.
DJL: And finally, what is your hope for the Garifuna people?
AM: Do you know that in 2001, UNESCO proclaimed the language, music,
and dance of Garifuna as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible
heritage of humanity? We love to live in community, not to fight. A
grandfather is a grandfather to our whole community. Come to the
Garifuna nation to see. I welcome you. I know that we will continue as a
spiritual people with our music of love, our culture of love.
To read more about Aurelio and his discography, read his Artist Profile.
Honduran singer-songwriter Aurelio Martinez’s fourth album celebrates his thirty years as a performer and defender of Garifuna culture with this new album titled Darandi. The recording was made at Real World Records while Aurelio and his band were on tour in the UK. The idea was to capture the live feel of the band.
The song selection includes Aurelio’s best known and most popular songs from throughout his career, a mix of originals and new versions of traditional Garifuna songs sung in the Garifuna language.
Although Aurelio has played various forms of music throughout the past decades, including punta rock, this album focuses on a more traditional form called parranda (the English language writers call it paranda). Parranda is a Spanish word that has several meanings, but it’s always connected to musicians and partying at night. The Garifuna form of parranda is characterized by vocals, acoustic percussion and guitars.
Aurelio’s style features a unique electric guitar sound that has African, Latin American, blues, and surf influences. It’s played by Guayo Cedeño, one of Honduras’ best guitarists.
One of Aurelio’s main goals is to reach Garifuna youth. “I want young Garifuna people to hear the problems they are living with reflected in my songs, and dance with those same problems.” In his songs, he references subjects such as safe sex and migration to the United States. He passionately hopes that the children who aren’t learning to speak the Garifuna language will be inspired by his music to sing in their traditional language.
The album comes packaged in a beautiful hard cover book with an extensive biography, photographs, illustrations and details about Garifuna culture. There is also a history of the Garifuna people and how they ended up in various countries in Central America. The booklet includes a map that shows the migration progress starting from African slave ship wrecks. Although the map indicates that it was two Spanish slave ships, this is not settled fact and other sources point to a Dutch slave ship expedition or even Portuguese slave ships.
Currently, the Garifuna live in about 50 towns on Central America’s Caribbean coast, extending from Belize down through Guatemala and Honduras all the way to Nicaragua. Although the Garifuna still share a common culture, the Garifuna language is disappearing. And the culture is under threat by religious missionaries and commercial interests connected to the tourism industry.
The lineup on the album includes Aurelio Martinez on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, maracas; Guayo Cedeño on lead electric guitar; Emilio Alvarez on bass; Onan Castillo on Garifuna drum (primero); Joel Martinez on Garifuna drum (segundo); Desiree Diego on backing vocals; Chela Torres on backing vocals; and Sheldon Petillo on backing vocals.
Darandi is a beautiful-crafted set of songs by the leading Garifuna artist at this time.
Following in the footsteps of the legendary Parranderos from the Caribbean coast of Central America, and the great Andy Palacio, with an enchanting blend of African and Latin acoustic roots, Aurelio Martinez emerged as one of the most exceptional Garifuna artists of his generation.
Acclaimed for both his preservation and modernization of the Parranda musical tradition. In 2008, he was selected by the great African musician, Youssou N’Dour, to join the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.
Aurelio Martinez was born into a family possessing a long and distinguished musical tradition in the small Garifuna community of Plaplaya in Honduras. He began playing guitar as soon as he was old enough to hold the instrument.
By the age of six he was regularly playing drums at social gatherings. Inspired by his grandmother and his father, he gathered a vast repertoire, which later enabled him to develop his own style.
He was an original member of the Garifuna All Star Band and worked and recorded with the legendary Andy Palacio. Along with Palacio, Rolando Sosa, Lugua Centeno, Chela Torres, Justo Miranda and others he recorded the Garifuna Soul album produced by Ivan Duran, a worldwide hit.
In 2017, Aurelio released Darandi, a selection of Aurelio’s favorite songs from his career, newly recorded. The CD is packaged as a 24-page hardback book with extended liner notes, archive photographs and illustrations.