Encouraged by a songwriter mother with a gorgeous voice and by his widely admired local troubadour father, the young Aurelio made his own guitars from cans and fishing line. Music and songs were the only entertainment in a place with no electricity and little contact with the outside world, and it is these songs that shaped him as an artist and inspired the pieces on Laru Beya.
Aurelio's father was an expert in paranda music, a street-friendly, Latin-inflected style that chronicles everything from social ills to humorous tales to aching love, all in a highly improvisatory and soulful mode. Aurelio has retained this musical flexibility, and in the sessions that became Laru Beya, he revealed his tireless, playful love of making music on the fly - sometimes for hours at a time, lying in a hammock with his guitar, inventing songs late into the night.
At the heart of every song on Laru Beya beats a traditional Garifuna rhythm, and not just the most widely known popularized rhythms of punta ("Ereba") or paranda ("Ineweyu") familiar to fans of Central American music. Aurelio uses the rarely recorded rhythms such as the sacred ugulendu or the African-inflected abeimahani rhythm, usually connected with women's singing. To deepen the sad tale of migration to the U.S, "Tio Sam," for example, Aurelio concluded the song with part of a traditional female song set to the abeimahani beat, sung by a chorus of Garifuna women.
However, beyond the beauties of Garifuna tradition and Aurelio's striking interpretations lie the true guiding force behind the album: the loss of one of the Garifunas' most eloquent and musically talented spokespeople, Andy Palacio. Palacio, who passed away suddenly in 2008, can be credited with transforming the music of the Garifuna from local curiosity to global icon. He won regional popularity as the powerhouse behind punta rock, a Garifuna-rock synthesis that broke onto the Central American scene in the 1990s. International acclaim followed with an award-winning album in 2007 that truly put Garifuna music on the map.
A mere month after Andy's death, Aurelio, producer Ivan Duran, and the talented Garifuna musicians who joined them on Laru Beya headed for a small fishing village, where they set up a studio in a beachfront house. They were often joined by local singers and dancers, like the chorus of village women who stopped by to add their voices to the title track, "Laru Beya". Recording and living by the sea for several weeks, they were still in grief and shock, yet they knew they had to do something amazing to honor Palacio's life and work.
Aurelio was able to explore the Garifuna connection to Africa when Youssou N'Dour selected him as his protege in 2009. N'Dour encouraged Aurelio to channel his virtuosity, to balance his evanescent stage presence with reserve until just the right moment. N'Dour also contributed his unique vocal abilities to several songs on Laru Beya, including "Wamada."
Yet Aurelio, along with Duran, wanted to explore some of the other possibilities of the Dakar music scene. They went to clubs, where groups like Orchestra Baobab invited Aurelio up on stage and later joined him in the studio, learning a verse of Garifuna lyrics phonetically, a first for non-Garifuna musicians. They went to Dakar's poorest neighborhoods, finding rappers and singers in the medina whose Wolof lyrics lend urgency to Aurelio's critique of politicians, "Weibayuwa," along with several other tracks. These voices at the margins resonated perfectly with the once marginalized songs of the Garifuna.
- Laru Beya - One of Songlines Top 10 best albums of the year 2011 Songlines (UK)
- Number 7 Best Album 2011 - The Guardian Critics Choice The Guardian - Robin Denselow (UK)
- Number 4 in Sunday Times top 100 world albums of the year Sunday Times (UK)
- ...powerful and energetic. Having settled in with this first number they put their pedal to the metal and drove off into a storming piece, fast, powerful and energetic. I was struck by the sound of the band: only six musicians but a full, rich sonic landscape. If you get the chance, go and see this band. Aurelio is a highly talented musician, conscious composer and passionate performer with an excellent band behind him... Worldmusic.co.uk (Live review from Mac, Birmingham) (UK)
- ..got us up on our feet at the start of the concert, relentlessly building... Aurelio's voice soars above the instruments like a young Youssou N'Dour in the early Etoile de Dakar recordings. Wonderful harmonies are provided by other members of the band. In some of the more spectacular drum breaks, Aurelio demonstrates his amazing ability on congas and dances just like a dervish! Songlines Magazine (Live performance from South Street Arts Centre, Reading) (UK)
- ...it was truly, sublime, in every sense of the word! ...Aurelio, in as distinctively emotive voice and vibrant personality as ever, led his hard working band as they bounced their varying sounds off his, with all ending up inspired, including the audience. ...with one stunner after another exuberantly hurled at us, meant we couldn't help dancing more or less non-stop throughout. Extra! Extra! (Live from Union Chapel, London) (UK)
- ...another favourite, Aurelio from Honduras whose passionate, upbeat set featuring his fine singing and guitar playing spread more smiles than the emerging sunshine. Live review from Extra Extra (WOMAD Charlton Park 2011) (UK)
- ...unexpected gems such as Honduran musician Aurelio MusicOMH (Online review from WOMAD Charlton Park) (UK)
- Live from WOMAD Charlton Park Festival 2011 From then the whirlwind tour continues, dropping tempo for Honduran crooner Aurelio before arriving in the first episode of what was to become 2011's story - the twin musical virtuosity of Cuba and west Africa. Morning Star Online (UK)
- Live review of Aurelio at The Barbican - July 2011 This is life-affirming music... We are in the presence of a sextet of master musicians on an inspiring night. Morning Star Online (UK)
- Live from WOMAD Charlton Park Festival 2011 From Honduras, there was more lilting musical politics from Aurelio Martinez, a successful politician who is a spokesman for the Garifuna community, partly descended from escaped African slaves and now scattered across central America. He mixed lectures on US foreign policy with impressive guitar work, backed by traditional Garifuna hand drums... The Guardian (Live review) (UK)
- ...lots of long, gracefully winding lines. Martinez's Garifuna soul hasn't been drowned out or diluted. It's still firmly rooted in surging local rhythms, with the odd digression into reggae, and mostly driven by the fibrous thumping of Garifuna drums....he still sings his songs in sweet Garifuna, which means lots of long, gracefully winding lines. Performance 5 stars - Recording 5 stars BBC Music Magazine (UK)
- Laru Beya is an evocative... ...multi-textured ride that begins on the Honduran coast and finishes up in Senegal. Forget expensive timepieces, rhythms here are soon-come, reggae tinged. Gritty Garifunan beats...Martinez's rich tenor and garifuna-language lyrics tackle big topics... Jazzwise (UK)
- An album to immerse yourself in... (Aurelio) an extremely important Central American singer/songwriter, he is a figurehead for the Garifuna community... An album to immerse yourself in...and look forward to Aurelio's performance at WOMAD this Summer! Echoes (UK)
- Light and optimistic ...its rhythms marked by gentle lilt, Honduran Aurelio Martinez's music blends Caribbean and African Sounds. ...to the listeners ears Aurelio has the edge, aided by guest vocals Youssou N'Dour. Limelight (Australia)
- Full of relaxed rhythms... Abenteuer & Reisen (Germany)
- A refreshing mix of influences - a powerful album. Saarbrucker Zeitung (Germany)
- The album of the year so far - Emotionally powerful Dagens Nyhetter (Sweden)
- ... seductive aromas from the Caribbean to West Africa. Goteborg Posten (Sweden)
- ... an album full of swinging melancholy... Helsingsborg Dagblat (Sweden)
- ... a worthy successor of Andy Palacio. Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden)
- Hypnotic melodies and rhythms and wonderful drive. beautiful songs... Boras Tidning (SE) (Sweden)
- .. most important exponent of the Garifuna culture. Rolling Stone (Germany)
- 12 Brilliant Songs Funkhaus Europa Radio (Germany)
- Exceptionally melodic... Glitterhouse (Germany)
- A fabulous album... Jazzthing (Germany)
- A very exciting album... Kolner Illustrierte (Germany)
- A refreshing mix of influences... Saarbrucker Zeitung (Germany)
- A sublime and original fusion of sounds... ... irresistible often poignant musical stories, the 'feelgood' factor (it was recorded in a beach shack) underpinned by a sense of audacious pleasure. The List (UK)
- ... contemporary roots music at its best... At the heart of each song, beats a traditional Garifuna rhythm, that Aurelio perfectly blends with other traditional semi-sacred African rhythms, usually connected with women's singing. And just like many African ensembles, Aurelio's music is an energetic mix of dense percussive layers and strong bassey vocals. Catch 22 (UK)
- ... fantastic follow-up to 2004's Garifuna Soul. Martinez's slice of island life upholds deep traditions and embraces new generations. Metro (UK)
- His intelligently understated guitar work mesmerises. Aurelio emanates Garifuna culture through every note and chord. His warm and potent voice is as intimate as it is reaffirming. This is a modern, electrifying synthesis of sounds that defies pigeonholing. Morning Star (UK)
- ... does indeed have that liberated feeling. This joyful musical rough-and-tumble comes from Honduras in Central America, where Aurelio Martinez and his fellow-artists purvey Garifuna music, named after the African slave-community from which they are descended. The album's title translates as "by the beach", and the music does indeed have that liberated feeling. The Scotsman (UK)
- ... surprisingly upbeat affair. Laru Beya has a sizeable pinch of MOR reggae and close-patterned Latin paranda rhythms. But best of all is Garifuna's vocal focus - Aurelio has a smooth, pleasant voice and female choruses offer him a delicious foil. The Wire (UK)
- "This album is just beautiful" Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2 (UK)
- ...an outstanding, surprise-filled offering. Aurelio Martinez, a leading light among Central America's Garifuna people, was sponsored to explore the music of Senegal under the aegis of Youssou N'Dour, who makes a couple of appearances on a rich, seductive album. The playful reggae of its opening cuts is one element in a mosaic of Latin and African influences: gritty Garifuna rhythms, sweet guitars, Dakar street rappers and the languorous Orchestre Baobab on "Bisien Nu". The moods likewise flow between reflection, sadness and joy on an outstanding, surprise-filled offering. The Observer (UK)
- ...glorious rhythmic vitality. ...expertly handled fusing of traditional cultural and global commercial imperatives. For the most part, Laru Beya is a relaxed, breezy and summery set, although beneath the surface it does have moments of touching melancholy too. From the outset, Aurelio establishes an engaging mix of world rhythms with his own gentle but insistent guitar strum. Occasionally, such as on...Lubara Wanwa, reggae influences also seep through. This very much feels like a homely, gentle, lilting reggae... The brisk, enjoyable and energetic Yurumei mixes highlife and samba, but with its standout clavinet riff, it also seems to hark back to that unparalleled run of masterpieces Stevie Wonder made during the 1970s....subtlety and taste...perhaps the album's highlight comes with a drift even further into gentle, folk-tinged acoustic territory with Mayahuaba. It's the most transparently melodic statement on the album and is as gentle and touching as a lullaby. The introduction to the subsequent Tio Sam seems like it might follow suit, but it eventually explodes into glorious rhythmic vitality. ...abundant qualities. It successfully establishes an effective common ground between the musical traditions of Africa and the Caribbean. It's also a sweet, appealing and vibrant set delivered with a satisfying combination of energy and sensitivity. Music OMH (UK)
- Aurelio's Honduran Pop... Martinez's voice is simultaneously breezy and joyful... Seattle Music Weekly (USA)
- ...potentially a major figure to watch. Honduran singer and guitarist Aurelio Martinez creates idyllic, beach strolling music, by turns breezy and melancholic, shot through with neo-African echoes, from salsa and reggae to languid Cape Verdean....contributions from Youssou N'Dour and Orchestra Baobab, the good hearted energy of this second album announces him as a potentially major figure to watch. The Telegraph (UK)
- ...lyrical, melodic second album... ...ideal accompaniments to a day on the beach on Roatan Island. With its reggae lilt, the title song (Laru Beya) captures the mood perfectly. The Times Playlist (UK)
- London Evening Standards World CD of the week! Aurelio Martinez is a rising star. His warm Garifuna lyrics speak of his people's history and culture...Martinez is joined on this by the burnished voice of Youssou N'Dour who was recently mentoring him in Dakar. This adds some vibrant Senegalese percussion and a couple of the singers from Orchestra Baobab but Aurelio Martinez is the accomplished voice at the centre of it all. London Evening Standard (UK)
- This promises to be the album of the year. ...soulful vocals, Youssou N'Dour adds his stiring vocals to two of the songs, while elsewhere there is backing from those great veterans of the Afro-Cuban scene, Orchestra Baobab, and from Senegalese rapper Sen Kumpe. The result is an album that veers between lilting, languid songs like the title track (Laru Beya), and sudden bursts of energy and anger...sturdy vocal work from the Garifuna women's chorus. This promises to be the album of the year. The Guardian (UK)
- This album goes beyond keeping the tradition alive... Aurelio Martinez approaches this set with quiet confidence and a refreshing openness that results in a breezy, rhythmically complex and pulsating set of songs which inevitably insinuate themselves into your consciousness. As the opening track of 'Lubara Wanya' unfolds I get the feeling I'm listening to a Manu Chao production and then the voice of Senegal's Youssou N'Dour sails into the mix. It's a magical moment. This album goes beyond keeping the tradition alive, according to Aurelio it is a call to action. So, act now and give a good listen to this voice of the people. Mondomix's Top Feature (UK)
- Transplanting from Honduras to Senegal has given Martinez more confidence. (Aurelio) has acquired some snappy tama and sabar drums to go with the Garifunan big beat, and guest cameos from Orchestra Baobab, as well as (Youssou) N'Dour. The songs take big subjects - Aids, corruption, infidelity to the seaside. The Financial Times (UK)
- An extremely important Central American singer/songwriter... An Album to immerse yourself in, learn more about the Garifuna cause, and look foreward to Aurelio's performance at Womad this summer! Echos Magazine (UK)
- Aurelio brings his tropical sound to western ears. Pitched between Marley's defiance and the eloquence of Youssou N'Dour. Classy. Daily Mirror (UK)
- An impressive album that simply sounds better with each new listening. Aurelio's obvious talent, and Duran's sterling musical arrangements...yield an impressive album. BBC Music (UK)
- Multilayered, multi-textured, rich, evocative and joyful. Distinctive and uplifting, it is a fitting tribute to the recently passed away original torch bearer of Garifuna music, Andy Palacio. The Epoch Times
- Aurelio's Wamada, makes Songlines Top Of The World CD (Aurelio) Martinez's recent mentorship with Youssou N'Dour in dakar led to this fabulous new exploration of their West african ancestry. 'Yurumei'...briskly stirring song which moves to choppy, Latin-infused rhythms from traditional barrel-drums and the sublimely melodic five guitarists... The gorgeous Garifuna women's choruses infuse the songs, and both (Youssou) N'Dour's voice and Orchestra Baobab's languid, african-Cuban presence, tips them towards perfection....the gorgeous 'Laru Beya' sees Baobab's guitars mingle with the sounds of Martinez's sparkling instrument behind rudy Gomis and Balla Sidibé singing in Garifuna. A wonderful collection, it confirms Aurelio's distinctive, personal style. Songlines Magazine (UK)
- ...Lara Beya is a texturally and emotionally involving treasure. By turns swaggering with a carefree carnivalesque joie de vivre, and seemingly channelling a Cape Verde spirit of melancholy that so evokes the disenfranchised human spirit, Lara Beya is a texturally and emotionally involving treasure. The Independent (UK)