Julio Zelaya is one of the most important contemporary composers in Central America. He plays original compositions using the unique Honduran garifuna rhythms and exposes them to the musical complexities of other African rooted music such as jazz, Caribbean, Brazilian and world.
Having lived a good part of his life in North America (Canada and the United States), he has been able to assimilate the main elements of American music from pop to jazz and has found his very own musical identity as he puts together all this background with his own Latin, Spanish and African roots.
Some of his compositions have been taken as a international symbol of the Honduras Caribbean on cable tv. and his music sounds in Central America, North America as well as in Europe.
Most of the songs of his CDs have been inspired by real experiences in the Honduran Caribbean ocean (mostly the Bay Islands: Roatan, Utila and Guanaja). The magic of singing mermaids , the dance of the dolphins, a delightful swim inside the coral reefs or a Bay Islands sunset. The work also describes a certain kind of nostalgia of the Garifuna people for their mother land Africa and in some songs you can hear the real jamming Garifunas do when they get together to celebrate the different events of life or death according to their tradition.
Guillermo Anderson was born February 26, 1962. He was Honduras’s best-known world music artist along with Garifuna musician Aurelio Martinez.
Guillermo was based in the lively Caribbean port of La Ceiba. His band Ceibana infused Afro-Caribbean percussion with contemporary sounds, local rhythms, and the folklore of Honduras’ coastal regions. Performances wee spiced with the merging of Honduran Garífuna rhythms such as “parranda” and “punta” with better-known reggae, salsa and other Caribbean styles.
His concerts celebrated love, nature and everyday life in this part of the Caribbean. As an artist Guillermo played an important role in Honduras bringing awareness on important issues like the protection of the environment, health and literacy. His song “En Mi País” became an alternative national anthem in Honduras. His concert “La Fiesta En El Bosque” The Party In the Forest”, a recording aimed at familiarizing children with rainforest species in danger of extinction gained him a wide children’s audience in Honduras.
Guillermo Anderson and his band Ceibana gained wide recognition and acclaim through their concert performances throughout North, Central and South America, Europe, Taiwan, and Japan.
Guillermo Anderson died on August 6, 2016.
Para Los Chiquitos (1986) En mi país (Colectivartes, 1987) Retratos (Colectivartes, 1989) La Fuerza Que Tenés (Colectivartes/Comunica, 1992) La Fiesta En El Bosque (Colectivartes/Guaymuras, 1994) En El Patio De Mi Casa (Colectivartes/Comunica, 1995) Para los Chiquitos (Costa Norte Records, 1995) Rumor de Mar 1995 (Colectivartes, ) Guillermo Anderson Acústico 1997 (Costa Norte Records, 1997) Todos Unidos (Costa Norte Records/UNESCO, 2001) Encarguitos del caribe (2005) Costa y Calor (2005) Pobre marinero (2005) El tesoro que tienes (2006) Desde el fondo de el mar (2006) Mujer canción mujer (2006) Del tiempo y del tropico (2007) Para los chiquitos, reissue (2008) El tesoro que tenes (2009) Lluvia con sol (2012)
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.