Aurelio (take 1) – Laru Beya

January 01, 1970

(Next Ambience/Sub Pop)

 

www.subpop.com

 

[Ed. note: we somehow assigned a
review of this outstanding and unusual record to two different writers, but
rather than shortchange one of them at the expense of the, we decided to  go on and publish both reviews. Go here to
read the other version. So sue us – but make sure you hear the record first.]

 

 

World music, as a genre, has never made
much sense. What, after all, can you do with a category broad enough to include
Tinariwen’s desert blues, Tom Zé’s Bahian folk oddities, Tuvan throat singing
and a hundred other traditions?  The
phrase “World music” is not just meaningless, it’s disrespectful to
the myriad specific musical styles that it encompasses, not to mention the
artists that have spent their lives mastering them. And yet, if you were to go
looking for someone who embodied “world music,” that is, who crossed
and melded as many non-western traditions as possible, you might end up finding
Aurelio Martinez.

 

Martinez
was born in a tiny coastal town in Honduras, part of a Garifuna
outpost founded centuries earlier by shipwrecked slaves. In this polycultural
environment, he absorbed, early on, African, Caribbean,
Central American and even European music, all spliced together in Garifuna
tradition. As a young man, he came under the influence of Andy Palacios, the
Garifuna’s biggest star, and Ivan Duran, a Belizean producer, whose Stonetree
record provide a platform for traditional styles like paranda and Garifuna. Martinez recorded his
first record Garifuna Soul in 2004. (A year later, he became a
congressman in the Honduran National Congress, the first Garifuna ever elected
to national office.)  

 

Martinez’s
second album, Laru Beya (dedicated to Palacios, who died in 2008) continues
to blend disparate traditions, bringing in not just the Garifuna influences of Martinez’s childhood,
but, through guest appearances, a global palette of sounds. Youssou N’Dour, who
was assigned to Martinez
through the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, sings on some of the
tracks, memorably on “Wamada.”  Senegal’s
Orchestra Baobob supplies a sinuous swing in others. There’s an island-slinky,
reggae-esque horn line swaggering through “Nuwaruguma,” a butt-shaking samba
beat under the West African call and response of “Ereba.”   The title track juxtaposes back-slanting,
upbeat-popping Caribbean rhythms with a
melting warmth and ease. 

 

None of that would matter if the songs
weren’t good, but the fact is that they are. In any case, the songs fit
together so well that you can’t even tell where one tradition begins and the
other ends. If it’s all one world, as the cliché goes, and perhaps it’s all one
song as well.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Laru Beya” “Wamada” JENNIFER
KELLY

 

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