Thailand to Timbuktu, Album Review >>
friday, november 19, 2010
‘LARU BEYA’ by Aurelio- Garifuna Music Lives!
The Garifuna people are one of the most unlikely success stories in the long sordid histories of both the African diaspora AND the Native American genocide. Remnants of an African group mixed in varying degress with local groups of Arawaks and Caribs in the Lesser Antilles, these refugees were long ago relocated to the Central American coasts centered around the not-so-golden triangle where Guatemala meetsHonduras and Belize, formerly British Honduras. There these almost-black people speaking an Amerindian language encountered local Maya-descended groups- in addition to other Caribbean blacks and mixed-race Latinos- and have proceeded to extend themselves far and wide. They have also proceededed to establish their own identity and culture based primarily on farming and fishing… and poverty… and music. For most people the notion of Garifuna music starts and ends with one name- Andy Palacio, the musician from Belize who made world music history with the album ‘Watina’ and whose life ended tragically soon thereafter, before he even got to enjoy his newfound fame.
Enter Aurelio, aka Aurelio Martinez, from Honduras, another Garifuna musician and close friend of Andy Palacio. He is fully prepared to carry Andy’s torch, and his new album ‘Laru Beya’ (‘at the Beach’) intends to prove it. Gone are the Latino flourishes that graced Aurelio’s previous work, and gave him some connection to the resources and markets of that genre. Largely gone also are the Afro-Pop affectations that made him something of a cause célèbre within that genre. This album, in fact, could almost be seen as much as an extension of Andy’s work as his own. Instead of Latin ‘spiciness’ or African rhythms instead we have minor keys and soulful laments, punctuated by upbeat numbers of philosophic survival. But if you think that sounds like reggae, you’d be wrong.
The opening song ‘Lubara Wanwa’ is not untypical. This is the slow soulful tearful lament of a woman bemoaning the vicissitudes of love and the absence of her sailor lover long gone to sea. And if that sounds like Youssou N’Dour singing complementary vocals with Aurelio, there’s probably a good reason. The title song ‘Laru Beya’ lightens things up with more of a reggae-like feel, complete with full female chorus line and occasional brass. "In the stillness I sleep. I awake and find that I have dreamt of you. I love you. I love you. I'll be sitting at the beach waiting for you", same scenario but more upbeat feel. I guess it’s a ‘glass half-empty/glass half-full’ thing. The next song ‘Yange’extends the theme, with the same almost fado-like mournfulness and lamentation, this time over a brother hurt at sea.
‘Wéibayua’ warns of the dangers of politicians and ‘Ineweyu’ warns of the dangers of sleeping around, all in lively percussion with occasional brass and appropriate mocking tone. This is music in its primordial function as a tool for social order and morality and transmission of culture, no small task considering that, like many dispersed tribal peoples of the world, the Garifuna are separated by national boundaries. Other songs deal with AIDS, immigration, and the price of cassava, but as always the most common theme here, as with almost any album any where any time, is the love between two humans, the spark that ignites larger fires.
The real theme of this album finally emerges on the tenth song,‘Wamada’ (‘Our friend’) a soulful ballad featuring Youssou N’Dour that mourns the loss of Andy Palacio, and wishes him his rightful place amonst the ancestors in the afterlife.
‘Nuwaruguma’ (‘my star’)- extends the theme of loss and solidarity and the idea that such phenomena are merely part of a larger order exemplified by the heavens. Faith is always the last refuge of confusion and wonder. Thus the album comes full circle and a lament becomes a eulogy and a renewal of faith. And thus a native people decimated in the Caribbean find cultural survival in the physical bodies of unwilling immigrants who not only meet up again with their Mayan second cousins, but carry their spirit on to the North, in the language of a new paradigm… music. Between punta and paranda and so on and so forth, there’s a lotta’ music emanating from a tiny band of survivors with a base in the Caribbean and a past in the Grenadines… with much of their population now scattered in the immigrant communities of the US, all coasts considered.
This music has DNA from all over, just like the Garifuna people who it so proudly represents. Hybrid vigor rules. The new album is called ‘Laru Beya’ by Aurelio. It’s more than reggae. It’s also being released by Next Ambiance, an imprint of Sub Pop. Remember them? But that’s another story. Check it out.
Posted by Hardie K at 4:28 PM 11/19/10 >> go there