Darandi

Aurelio, 2017

Celebrating 30 years at the heart of Garifuna Music

Darandi, released on 20 January 2017 worldwide, except France: 27 January 2017 and North America: 17 February 2017.

Since childhood, Aurelio Martinez has been performing the music of his Garifuna ancestors. Descended from shipwrecked African slaves and the Island Caribs of St Vincent, the Garifuna faced imprisonment and exile in the late 18th century, eventually finding home in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Darandi is a collection of Aurelio's favourite songs from his career recorded to capture the sound of his incendiary live performances. Accompanied by some of the Garifuna world's brightest musical talents, pairing upbeat, dynamic rhythms with melancholy, heartfelt melodies, this music is both deep and danceable.

Aurelio Martinez is, without exaggeration, the greatest living interpreter of Garifuna music. Specifically, he is a master of the paranda, a style based around the acoustic guitar that often draws comparisons to the blues for its often bittersweet melodies and sharp social commentary concealed within songs about everyday life. Although not as well known as Cuban son or Colombian cumbia, it is without doubt one of the continent's great music traditions; a style deeply African and Latin American at once.

"I feel like the main cultural representative now of the Garifuna community of Central America," he says. "And I think I can do more with my music that I ever could as a lawmaker."

Over the course of his three studio albums (Garifuna Soul, Laru Beya, and Landini), Aurelio set out to make a difference for the Garifuna people. By sharing Garifuna music with the wider world, he could bring attention the challenges that his people are facing. For instance, the Garifuna in Honduras and beyond have been undergoing a fierce struggle over land ownership. As it happens, their seaside villages are located on postcard-perfect beaches. As Honduras seeks to grow its tourism industry, those lands are coming under pressure from powerful business and government interests. Garifuna leaders have been harassed and even assassinated for speaking up, and conflicts over ancestral lands have made their way to international court. The more people beyond Central America know about the Garifuna, the more pressure is put on the Honduran government to protect them.

Perhaps even more importantly for Aurelio, his mission is to reach the 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 has addressed issues ranging from safe sex to the tribulations of migration to the U.S. He hopes the children who aren't learning to speak the Garifuna language will be inspired by his music to sing it.

Unlike his previous albums, painstakingly recorded one overdub at a time at the Stonetree Studios in Belize, Darandi captures the unfiltered sound of Aurelio's incendiary live performances, accompanied by some of the Garifuna world's brightest musical talents. The album was recorded while Aurelio was visiting the UK for a performance at WOMAD Charlton Park. After the festival, Aurelio and his band visited Real World Studios, and laid down the record, completely live. He packed the whole band and their gear into a single room. "We got into a zone where we felt like we were in our own community, playing Garifuna music for our people. It was a special feeling," says Aurelio.

As Aurelio sees it, this is an album that closes a cycle in his career, representing the culmination of 30 years of composing and performing paranda music. The album consists of the songs from his extensive catalog that have proven to be his biggest hits, the songs he plays most frequently while touring throughout the world. They range from Yalifu, a gorgeous lament to his childhood separation from his father from his first album, to Landini, the swinging title track from his third record.

Reviews

  • * * * * With its twanging and wailing electric guitars, throbbing hand drums and blend of African, Caribbean and Latin influences, the paranda music of the Garifuna people is compelling and unique. Soulful, lilting and yearning... Read the full review here. the Guardian
  • * * * * Upbeat and engaging, like the man himself, and backed by Guayo Cedeño's vibrato-rich electric guitar, this album should bring more attention to an under-valued stream of Afro-Latin music. Welcome in that Caribbean sunshine! Read the full review here. The Irish Times
  • 7.5/10 Dance to the beat of the mayflower drum. Sway with the lilting fluid guitar and chant with lungs full of ocean air. Read the full review here. Rhythmpassport.com
  • 7/10 ...the overall feel and sensory experience of Darandi is a refreshing one. Grand musicianship with voices to accompany, it is an album with a very distinctive feel and refreshing sound. Read the full review here. louderthanwar.com
  • Future sounds: the best pop and rock of 2017 See the full listing here. The Guardian (UK)
  • Aurelio Martinez celebrated 30 years as a champion of Garifuna music by booking his band into Real World studios for an as-live run through their greatest hits. The Garifuna, spread along the Atlantic coast of Central America, are descended from the Arawak and from slaves freed by shipwreck, and the music blends Caribbean rhythms with West African melodies and guitar stylings. "Laru Beya", originally recorded in Dakar with Martinez's sometime mentor Youssou N'Dour, still has the easy swing of Orchestra Baobab. "Funu Tugudirugu" condemns male fecklessness with a surprising Country-and-Western shuffle. The Financial Times (UK)