Aurelio: A Musical Guardian of The Garifuna

Aurelio Martinez’s new cd, Laru Beya has been garnering excellent reviews. Here are a couple.

Banning Eyre for npr, which you can read or Listen Now:

From 2006 to 2010, singer-songwriter Aurelio Martinez served in the Honduran congress, where he championed the concerns of the Garifuna — a marginalized community descended from African slaves and Caribbean Indians. But Aurelio has turned back to music full-time, and with his band Garifuna Soul, he’s just released a new album called Laru Beya.

Garifuna music has mysterious Afro-Caribbean roots, with West African rhythms, a Latin lilt and flavors of reggae and calypso. At the core is a unique language and poetic tradition, focused on the hard lives of disempowered people who live at the mercy of the sea. In “Weimbayuwa,” Aurelio sings about sharks — his characterization of the politicians with whom he worked in the Honduran congress.

“Bisien Nu” features the veteran Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab on backing vocals. Aurelio has forged a special tie with Senegal, thanks to a corporate program that sent him there to mentor with Youssou N’Dour — arguably Africa’s greatest living singer and bandleader. Aurelio and N’Dour mix it up together in “Wamada,” recorded in memory of the late Garifuna star Andy Palacio..

Tasty Senegalese flavors are inserted throughout Laru Beya. But the album keeps its focus on Garifuna music, with its rolling rhythms and irresistible folk melodies. The language and culture of the Garifuna may be threatened in their home countries, but their music has achieved outsize recognition internationally. With his talent, vision, charisma and searing voice, Aurelio is a big part of the reason.

You can find the review a

Ron Hart for

The tiny hamlet of Plaplaya in the Honduras might not be as prolific a destination as some of its neighboring islands. But this hidden community is home to one of the most beguiling forms of music that exists in the region, a rhythmically driven combination of African and Caribbean Indian roots music called Garifuna. And at the epicenter of this particular form of music is Aurelio Martinez, who comes from a lineage steeped in the Garifuna tradition. But while his primary instrument are the drums, having studied percussion since he as a little schoolboy, the songs on Aurelio’s latest album (and first for new Sub Pop subsidiary imprint Next Alliance) is more grounded in the troubadour folk implemented by his father, a revered local figure whose improvised experiments with the Garifuna style made him a legend in his hometown.

Laru Beya was recorded with producer Ivan Duran in February of 2008 in the quietude of a beachfront house off the coast of a small fishing village following the death of Aurielo’s longtime friend and mentor, Garifuna icon and Belize congressman Andy Palacio. And if you hear elements of Youssou N’Dour in this collection as well, it’s because the Senegalese Afro-pop great selected Aurelio as his protege in 2008, taking the musician under his wing by bringing him to Senegal to help Martinez reshape the songs he recorded in that little beach house. And by collaborating with N’Dour, as well as several members of the famed Orchestra Baobob, Aurelio adds a new dimension to Garifuna music that brings its unique harmonies closer to their African roots than ever before. Laru Beya is an enchanting look at the evolution of an age-old artery of Caribbean music whose time for rediscovery is long overdue.

You can find the review at

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