Robin Denselow Reviews Aurelio Martinez

Aurelio Martinez has been described as “one of the most remarkable and passionate Garifuna artists of his generation.” [See previous posts Aurelio Martinez Has a Garifuna Soul and Aurelio Martinez: A voice for the people.] Martinez recently played in England at Manchester’s Band on The Wall. Robin Denselow (The Guardian) reports on the performance:

Aurelio Martinez has all the makings of an internationally successful artist. He has a fine soulful voice and a highly individual style; his songs are based around the traditional rhythms of the Garifuna people, the descendants of escaped slaves from Africa who intermarried with the local people on the island of St Vincent, and who can now be found across Central America. This is music that fuses Caribbean, Latin and African influences, and was initially popularised in the west by the late and brilliant Andy Palacio.

Martinez, who once worked with Palacio, is now its best-known exponent. A former politician (until last year he was a congressman in Honduras), he’s a songwriter, guitarist and percussionist, and his latest album Laru Beya, which included contributions from Youssou N’Dour, has been one of the most original releases of the year.

Performing live, he was less successful. This was a show that matched patches of brilliance with uneven, extended instrumental work-outs—not helped by the sound quality. Martinez came on dressed in white, an engaging, energetic performer playing acoustic guitar and surrounded by a six-piece band that included Garifuna hand-drums and a fine, twanging electric guitar.

He started well with Yange, a song about suffering that sounded like a celebration, and continued in the same upbeat style. There were joyfully languid sections, along with a political ballad, Tío Sam, about the problems of migrants in America, which developed into a furious guitar and drum session. The song was interrupted as Martinez stopped to welcome senior diplomats from Honduras and Belize, who immediately joined in the dancing.

By the end, this had become a cheerful but messy party set, as he allowed the band to drift off into extended solo passages, while he switched from guitar to percussion. Material this good needed far greater focus.

For the original report, see

Photo of Aurelio Martinez with Youssou N’Dour from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s