Stonetree Records is very proud to present the next great Paranda album from Garifuna superstar Aurelio Martinez.
Aurelio will launch his new album, 'Lándini' in Belize with a special concert at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts on Friday December 12th.
Aurelio returns to his Garifuna roots with Lándini - a swaying, bittersweet homage to his beloved home and people. In original songs crafted with his mother Maria, as well as traditional tunes, Aurelio mixes upbeat, Garifuna rhythms with heartfelt melodies and sparkling instrumentation, and carries forth the torch for Central America's indigenous Garifuna tradition.
A narrow spit of land arcs into the Caribbean off the coast of Honduras, where a dark-watered river flows into the sea. There, in Plaplaya - a small village without electricity - Garifuna songwriter, singer, and guitarist Aurelio Martinez first learned music at his mother’s knee.
At the end of the day, villagers would return in their boats to the river landing, setting aside work and gathering to hear paranda, the guitar-driven music of Garifuna troubadours who teased and taught, bemoaned and praised community life. Aurelio joined musical gatherings from a tender age, set atop a table by his uncles.
His childhood village has become a touchstone for Aurelio, a dedicated Garifuna cultural advocate and musical innovator. In original songs crafted by Aurelio and his mother Maria Martinez, as well as traditional tunes, he returns to the landing place that launched him with Lándini (“landing” in Garifuna), a swaying, bittersweet homage to his beloved home and people.
"I consider this album to be the sound of my Garifuna people. On the previous album [Laru Beya] we experimented and collaborated with other artists to reconnect what was lost between Africa and America. This album is purely Garifuna, and the entire spirit of the music reflects the Garifuna experience."
Though it incorporates elements from a wide variety of sources, the heart of Garifuna music beats with very personal, deceptively simple tales. Aurelio credits his mother Maria, who dreamed of being a professional singer, with introducing him to the basics of Garifuna songcraft. Like many Garifuna, she composed her own songs based on community events and her personal experience. She would teach the verse and chorus of the songs to her son, who would then build on the tale by adding another verse, in traditional Garifuna style.
"My mother is the sole inspiration for this album," says Aurelio. "My mother sees herself reflected in me, to a large degree - the only one of the family to fulfill her dream of singing professionally. She reminds me of songs, and will give me advice on music and the songs. She’s the best example I have in my life of what a human being should be, my main consultant and confidante."
Preservation of Garifuna culture has always been the prime motivator for Aurelio, even leading him into electoral politics where he became the first person of African decent elected to the Honduran Congress in 2005. However, following the untimely death of Belize’s cultural ambassador and musical icon, Andy Palacio, Aurelio returned to music full time, to not only honour the legacy of his dear friend but to continue the mission they both so passionately shared.
The songs on Lándini are about Aurelio, his feelings, his family, and Garifuna life in general. In recording Lándini, Belizean producer Ivan Duran, who has dedicated most of his professional life to working with Garifuna artists, strove to accentuate the songs' intimate nature. Duran's touches are restrained and subtle, leaving the spotlight on Aurelio and his band's passionate performances.
Recorded and mixed at Stonetree Studios in Benque Viejo by Al Ovando and Ivan Duran, the new album features the same musicians and team he's worked with for almost 15 years. Lándini was released internationally in September by Peter Gabriel's Real World Records and has received rave reviews from important music publications around the world. In October, Lándini reached the coveted #1 spot on the World Music Charts Europe and has been voted as one of the top ten World Music albums of 2014 by a handful of publications, including Songlines Magazine, The Sunday Times (UK), Afropop Worldwide (US) and fRoots Magazine.
Lándini is available throughout Belize at quality music stores and gift shops, tickets for Friday's concert are available at the Bliss Box Office.
Album sampler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FREnuHSvul0
"Irawini (Midnight)" (Aurelio & his mother - LIVE): http://youtu.be/yjDb3CUDTKI
Music is a 'weapon to make change' for this Garifuna guitar player and activist
Aurelio Martinez calls his latest album "pure Garifuna." Credit: Courtesy of Richard Holder
Aurelio Martinez has two major roles in his life: He’s a musician, specializing in the music of the Garifuna people of Central America, but he's also a politician who advocates for their rights.
“Music, for me, is my weapon to make change," Martinez says, "to bring power and empower the people in our community, and to give pride to our children. Sometimes, we don’t have any pride around our culture, where we come from.”
The Garifuna are already a small minority throughout Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. And with inevitable cultural assimilation, many of the community’s older traditions have already been phased out.
“There are certain songs that used to be performed in social gatherings, and they don’t happen as they used to. Especially now, everybody just stays home and watches TV or they go about their lives in a different way," explains Ivan Duran, Martinez’s producer.
Garifuna culture started with a 17th century shipwreck: A slave ship crashed on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where slaves met the island's native Kalínago people, learned their language and intermarried
But a century later, after a series of wars, the their descendants were deported by the newly arrived British and forced to live on the Caribbean coast of Central America. That's how the Garifuna adopted a variety of French, Spanish and English cultural traditions.
“It’s a very interesting mix of music — just as the culture, which is a mix of different cultures, primarily African and native Caribbean Indians,” Duran explains. “The rhythms are very African ... but many of the melodies, for example, are more Amerindian. So they would have more similarities with Native American chants and melodies.
That blend is what gives Garifuna music its unique sound. It also tends to tell a specific story in simple terms. Traditional songs are repurposed by the performer, who will replace names of people and places to tell their own version of the tale. Oftentimes, the stories have a double meaning — for instance, a sad narrative accompanied with an upbeat guitar part.
“I think that artists like Aurelio are very important because they show the younger generation that there’s this incredible value in one’s cultures and in one’s traditions," Duran says. "When you lose some of that basically you’re losing some of yourself, of who you are.”
Growing up in a small, secluded village on the Honduran coast, Martinez got much of his musical education from his mother, who was a singer and composer herself. According to Duran, Martinez’s mother wanted to be a professional singer, “but her mom didn’t let her. So she became kind of like a frustrated artist all her life. ... It was Aurelio who fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional artist.”
She would compose songs based on her personal experiences and the Garifuna community and teach them to Martinez, who would add verses and build on the story — a musical tradition of their culture. “This new album is like coming back to my roots, like coming back to my town,” Martinez says.
Some of his those co-written songs even made it onto the record — like the track “Irawani” (“Midnight.”) In it, Maria recalls late nights spent waiting up for her son. Once she hears his guitar, she knows he is close: “I hear the guitar from far away. I hear Aurelio and his guitar visiting midnight.”
And while his main tool might be music, Martinez has also fought for change through more traditional means: politics. He was one of the first people of African heritage to become a member of the Honduran legislature, but he resigned in 2008 after frustration with the government’s slow progress.