The Garifuna Collective – ABAN (Stonetree Records, 2019)
The Garifuna Collective delivers an album where Garifuna musical traditions are combined with modern musical forms such as dub and subtle cutting edge electronics. The irresistible songs feature call and response choruses, delightful electric guitars and hip-shaking rhythms.
The recording features musicians from Belize and Honduras, representing different generations. The lineup includes Marcela Aranda on vocals; Desiree Diego on vocals and maracas; Mohobub Flores on vocals and turtle shells; Sheldon Petillo on vocals; Emilio Thomas on vocals; Rolando “Chichiman” Sosa on vocals and percussion; Denmark Flores on Garifuna drums; Sam Harris on electric guitar and vocals; Guayo Cedeño on electric guitar; Eli Levinson on sampling and programming; Iván Durán on electric and acoustic guitars, bass; and Al Ovando on electric guitar, bass, percussion, claps.
ABAN presents well-constructed, uplifting songs illustrating the new trends in Garifuna rooted music.
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.
The Garifuna Collective, Belize’s acclaimed Afro-Indigenous roots music band will be touring Europe and North America in support of its new album, Aban, this summer. This will be its first major international tour since 2014.
Aban is set for worldwide release June 21st, 2019 on Belize’s Stonetree Records. The European part of The Garifuna Collective’s tour will begin on June 6th in the Netherlands, with stops at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, Norway’s Førde Festival, and YAAM Berlin.
The North American tour will begin on July 12th in Montana, with stops at the Calgary Folk Fest, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and New York City’s Summerstage.
The Garifuna Collective released its previous album, Ayo in 2016.
The Garifuna people are descendants of Afro-indigenous people from the Caribbean island of St Vincent who were exiled to Central America by the British in the 18th century.
The Garifuna Collective 2019 Tour Dates:
June 6 – Afro-Pfingsten, Winterthur, NL
June 7 – YAAM, Berlin, DE
June 8 – IMMF, Nijmegen, NL
June 15 – Ethno Port Festival, Poznan, PL
June 22 – Wales, UK (Venue TBA)
June 23 – Liverpool, UK (Venue TBA)
June 28 – Lent Festival, Maribor, SI
June 29 – Fusion Festival, Lärz, DE
July 5 – Roskilde Festival, DK
July 6 – Førde Festival, NO
July 7 – Afrika Festival, Hertme, NL
July 12 – Montana Folk Festival, Butte, MO
July 20 – Grassroots Festival, Trumansburg, NY
July 21 – Schenectady Central Park, Schenectady, NY
July 24 – Cleveland Music of Art, Cleveland, OH
July 25 – Calgary Folk Fest, Calgary, AB
August 2 – Summerstage, New York, NY
Aug 16 – Invermere Festival, BC
Aug 17 – Salmon Arm Festival, Salmon Arm, BC
Aug 22 – Portland, ME – TBA
Aug 23 – Bangor, ME – TBA
The Garifuna Collective from Belize and celebrated reggae
artist Horace Andy will headline the 27th annual Africa Oyé festival this
summer in the UK.
Africa Oyé will take place June 22 and 23, 2019 in Liverpool’s
Sefton Park. The festival celebrates the
music and culture of Africa and the Diaspora with two free days of live music,
DJ sets and multi-arts workshops.
Jamaican singer-songwriter Horace Andy is well-known as the sweetest voice in reggae and for his long association with British trip-hop forerunners, Massive Attack. Andy has become an persevering voice on the Jamaican music scene. His early 1970s hit, ‘Skylarking’ expressed his ability to deliver songs of Black determination and social commentary that topped the Jamaican charts.
Horace Andy has steadily recorded and performed around the
world in his own right with his band Dub Asante, and has remained famous in
roots reggae, rocksteady, lovers rock and dancehall.
Also announced for the 2019 festival is The Garifuna
Collective. The group has pushed the boundaries of Garifuna musical traditions.
The group went back to the studio last year ro record its new album Hamala (Let
Them Fly). It will The Garifuna Collective’s first record since the
highly-praised tribute album to fallen bandleader and cultural icon Andy
Palacio. The new album experiments with new Garifuna rhythms, recording
concepts and even some “organic electronic” music and dub techniques.
The two festival headliners join a line-up that already
includes BCUC, Moonlight Benjamin, Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda, Carlou D and
OSHUN, as well as Liverpool emerging stars Tabitha Jade and Satin Beige who
make up the ‘Oyé Introduces’ program.
Africa Oyé’s Artistic Director said: “It’ll be a real honor to welcome back The Garifuna Collective to headline Oyé in their own right after their amazing performance with the late, great Andy Palacio twelve years ago; their sound and energy is incredible. And Horace Andy is a reggae headliner we’ve always wanted to see on our stage and I just know he’ll close out the Saturday in perfect style.”
Percussionist and singer Mohobub Flores was born in Dandriga, cultural and musical capital of the Garifuna community of Belize and birthplace of Pen Cayetano, a musician and painter who founded the Turtle Shell Band in the 1980s and fused traditional Garifuna music to popularize what was called “punta rock.”
Mohobub started his career as a percussionist in 1979 and belongs to the generation responsible for projecting the music of this ethnic group onto the international scene.
Garifuna artist Delvin “Pen” Cayetano was born in 1954 in Dangriga, Belize. In the late 1970s, Pen Cayetano began to compose songs in the Garifuna language. He added the rhythm of the electric guitar to the traditional punta rhythm and created what is now known as punta-rock, the “rock” being the rhythm of the guitar.
Cayetano’s creation caught on quickly in Belize and from there spread to the other Central American countries.
The Garifuna All Star Band was a once in a lifetime collaboration of the biggest stars of Garifuna music, such as Andy Palacio and Paul Nabor from Belize. For the first time, these musicians from diverse backgrounds were assembled into a dynamic group to portray the vibrant aspects of traditional and modern Garifuna music and culture.
The Garifuna All Star Band performed a modern fusion of the punta, the highly danceable punta rock, as well as the intense semi-sacred Hungu-Hungu. Also in their music was the Latin bluesy parranda style.
Alfonso Palacio, better known as Paul Nabor, was born January 26, 1928 in Punta Gorda, Belize. He was a legend in Parranda songs accompanied by drumming, percussion and acoustic guitar, very much like the Caribbean Calypso. He was also a sort of spiritual leader with the voice of age and wisdom.
Though nominally Roman Catholic, many Garifuna practice African spiritual traditions. The dugu, honouring the Garinagu ancestors is the most important tradition, where feasting, music and dance go on for days.
Paul Nabor was also the last living Parrandero in Punta Gorda, a small coastal village in southern Belize. He woke up at five every morning to fish in the Caribbean, and in the evenings he served as religious leader at the old wooden Garifuna temple before his gigs at the local club, which often ran nearly into the next morning.
Paul Nabor died October 22, 2014 in Punta Gorda, Belize.
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.
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.
Greatest Hits (1979)
Keimoun (beat on) (1995)
Til Da Mawnin (1997) Wátina (Cumbancha, 2007)
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.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion