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Published: 2011/02/15
by Ron Hart

Aurelio
Laru Beya

Next Ambiance-Sub Pop

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.

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