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Review of CD by Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective

By Julius Timmerman
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008

This is a very special album from the late Andy Palacio representing the minority Garifuna culture that originated in Belize in the 1600s. The album, on the Cumbancha label founded by x-Putumayo A&R head Jacob Edgar, does a lot to revive the culture, language and music that Palacio learned as a child, which was then already becoming scarce. Palacio had been playing punta rock popular in Central America, but on discovering how determinedly his Garifuna culture was disappearing he embarked on this recording.

The music has a mix of West African, Cuban and Caribbean elements, warm, flowing, rhythmic and sweet, and there’s the odd other influence, like blues. As World Music goes it carves its own niche and is more than the sum of its parts. Each listening however can present a new facet to appreciate – interesting rhythms, haunting backing vocals, Palacio’s lyrical voice, occasional sensual guitar licks that give it a contemporary touch, homogeneous instrumental arrangements as well as joy, passion and cohesiveness in performances. Not music that whacks you in the face, but powerful, engaging and uplifting.

The ensemble of over a dozen Garifuna musicians from Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras perform songs about racial bias and prayer, marital woes, children, oppression or just everyday matters like drunkenness and death that touch our lives, and other human themes. Some are dark, others joyful. Some are like rallying cries, others like lullabies. One song is especially about the preservation of the Garifuna culture.

This is a fresh, moving, fascinating album without a weak moment. RIP Andy Palacio 1960-2008.


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