An introduction to the Honduran musician on the release of his second album.
Tue, 17 May 11
Released 12 April 2011
Aurelio’s striking interpretations of Garifuna musical tradition reveal his tireless, playful love of making music on the fly, but are also infused by the loss of one of the Gairfuna’s most eloquent and musically talented spokespeople, Andy Palacio. Laru Beya is an album that honours Palacio’s life and work.
with Youssou N’Dour
A sailor returns from the sea to await the birth of a child; one he suspects might not be his. Drawing on Latin and Caribbean vibes, the song gives a nod to the boleros and reggae that have inspired many Honduran Garifuna musicians over the years.
The bittersweet feeling of the lyrics was captured by Senegalese Afropop icon Youssou N’Dour, who whipped up a striking vocal line in English at a studio in Dakar.
with Rudy Gomis and Balla Sidibé
This upbeat love song chronicles the joy of romance on the beach. As all Garifuna communities lie on the coast, the beach witnesses most first kisses, secret trysts, and passionate love affairs.
This song brought together a wild cast of characters, everyone from Orchestra Baobab vocalists Rudy and Balla, who added a verse in French, to a local women’s group that contributed the spirited background vocals during the beachside recording sessions in Honduras.
In simple yet poignant terms, Aurelio tells the tale of his brother who suffered and passed away from a mysterious undiagnosed illness. Though the events are tragic, the tone of the song, like many Garifuna accounts of difficulties, is subtly celebratory. Yange’s story is being told while grief is being given voice. The focus, as in many of Aurelio’s songs, is not on conveying his opinion, criticism, or commentary, but on finding common touchstones of shared emotion.
with Sen Kumpe
From 2006 to 2010 Aurelio served as a congressman in the Honduran legislature, but during this period he still had no problem coming up with a song about politicians—whom he compares to bloodthirsty sharks—right in the middle of a reelection campaign. Duran and Aurelio were playing around in the studio, and this song was born.
The song’s skeptical critique is highlighted by the contributions of Senegalese rappers Sen Kumpe, hip hop musicians from the impoverished medina of Dakar. Their pointed comments in Wolof proclaiming that they are not part of the system point to the shared fate of the marginalized; whether they be on the shores of Central America or in the inner cities of West Africa. A common call for justice.
Set to a punta beat, this songs chronicles two centuries of Garifuna history; from their brutal expulsion from, and longing for, the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, to the joy of finding a new home in Honduras.
As a symbol of Garifuna pride and hope, St. Vincent (Yurumei) has become a common topic in many recent Garifuna songs. The late Andy Palacio also sang of Yurumei, calling for the Garifuna people to make the complicated journey back to their lost homeland.
with Njaaya & Gaston ‘Baay Sen’
This gently mocking song tells the tale of a woman so fed up with her philandering husband she locks him out, informing him literally “You’re not coming up that ladder anymore!”. Aurelio wrote several new verses to continue this traditional song, and Senegalese singer Njaaya came up with a few lines of her own, reflecting the female perspective. The catchy Garifuna tune and West African grooves are woven into overlapping guitars with a vintage reggae vibe that fits the song’s laid-back paranda rhythm.
Meteñu, the state of being without parents, has particular poignancy in Garifuna culture and the plight of orphans is a common theme in their songs. Drawing on this important motif, in simple heartfelt words Aurelio tells the tale of a child who has lost his parents to AIDS.
Singing of the troubles facing migrants to the U.S., Aurelio draws on the female genre of gunchéi, a product of French influences rarely heard on recordings of Garifuna music. The song is built from an improvised line Martinez wrote while lying in a hammock at the beachfront studio. Tio Sam echoes the migrant’s journey musically with a Texas-style tremolo guitar, and calls for greater love and fewer walls.
with Youssou N’Dour
One day in the beachfront studio, Aurelio began to sing a traditional song that is part of the Garifuna’s highly sacred Dügü ceremonies, and thus rarely recorded. Recorded in one breathtaking take, Aurelio felt it was an appropriate song to honor the late Andy Palacio’s memory. He tells of Andy’s hammock swinging in the afterlife, reflecting on Palacio’s life of ease among the honored ancestors.
Aurelio’s musical mentor, Youssou N’Dour came to a studio session in Dakar during Aurelio’s sojourn there and swiftly laid down his compelling and soulful vocal line, needing only one take to get to the heart of the song. The striking, emotive voice of N’Dour adds an additional layer of richness.
Aurelio first learned this song from his mother, who composed a lament telling of her distress at one of her son’s misfortunes at sea. She drew on traditional solidarity songs or abeimahani, in which the Carribean Amerindian influences on Garifuna music can be strongly felt.
Usually, women join hands and sing abeimahani songs together a cappella. However, Aurelio and Duran decided to arrange the melody and set it to chords, with unexpected results. While recording, Aurelio forgot the words, and phoned his mother in the U.S., who insisted she take part in the recording and speaks some verses in the background!
Cassava bread is a Garifuna staple but is complicated to make. Aurelio sings of the multiple steps involved in preparing the traditional dish, often part of offerings to the ancestors. He also reminds listeners of his friend Andy Palacio’s question: Who will make the cassava in times to come? Aurelio, like Palacio, calls out younger Garifuna who recoil from the hard work needed to make cassava, and by extension rebuke other time-honored yet often time-consuming traditional practices crucial to Garifuna life and spirit. However, Aurelio does not shy away from using a popular punta beat to get his thoughtful point across.
Released 15 September 2014
Released 03 October 2010
American journalist Marlon Bishop embarks on a cultural journey with Aurelio Martinez, the finest exponent of the music of the Garifuna.
Sat, 14 January 17