Garifuna Soul & Global Awards

9 06 2007


Andy Palacio

By Derek Beres

A few years ago I received a sweet little treasure from Belize celebrating the tenth anniversary of local start-up Stonetree Records, From Babakabush. Started in ’95 by Ivan Duran, the tiny label released some large sounds, most notably – as this collection shows – solid songs by Mr. Peters’ Boom and Chime, Adrian Martinez and Paul Nabor. Also included on this disc was Garifuna musician Andy Palacio, who went on to be signed by Cumbancha, a recent label founded by the former A&R director of Putumayo World Music.

Palacio’s widespread deubt, Wátina, is brillitantly produced, and has gone on to make one of those credible waves the occasional global music record does in America. The momentum, like most word-of-mouth projects, is certainly growing. Fatboy Slim recently spent some time with Palacio to record sections for an upcoming album, and now both Palacio and Duran are being honored with 2007’s WOMEX award. For Palacio, whose musical and social passion is keeping the Garifuna tradition alive, and Duran, whose own ambition has led him to become a one-man force in Belize for preserving and presenting indigenous music, this recognition is welcomed, and warranted, given the beauty of Wátina.

Stonetree Records

Anyone running an independent record label knows what a daunting task that is. To purposefully choose, as in Stonetree founder Ivan Duran’s words, “non-professional” musicians, seems to be an even more dangerous move. And yet that what has made his label so special, as this collection shows: there is nothing “non” about it. What it is, and fully at that, is ten beautiful and soulful songs from a host of Central American talent. Admittedly, one artist has broken away and gathered a successful career: Belize native and Garifuna folklorist Andy Palacio, who recently released the excellent Wátina, is featured with an equally inspired “Nabi.” In this story of the power of healing through a lineage of ancestral spirits, Palacio’s sweet vocals rise above an astoundingly danceable percussive rhythm. Other dance numbers are included: fellow Belizean Mr. Peters’ Boom & Chime’s “Solomon Gi Ah” has a driving interplay between cowbell and accordion; Honduras’ Aurelio Martinez and his cajon-led “Nuwerun,” vocally reminiscent of a youthful Yossou N’Dour; and the slow, dripping horn-inspired funk patois of toaster Leroy Young the Grandmaster, and his dub-aclicious prose on “Será Que Será.” An equal luster appears when the record’s more reflective tracks arrive. Paul Nabor’s sing-a-long “Naguya Nei” is brilliant in his gruff-toned tribute to the funerary rights of his sister, and the acoustic “Baba” by Adrian Martinez points toward the beautiful harmonies composed by Salif Keita. To get to the heart of Stonetree, and why Duran’s selection of more obscure, indigenous folk music is so important and relevant, listen to Lugua Centeno’s “Lirun Dan.” Take a bit of Nyabhingi drum attitude with his rough, Burning Spear-inflected vocals, and you have one damn fine convergence of cultures documented, recorded and, to those lucky enough to find it, cherished.




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