Aurelio (take 2) – Laru Beya

January 01, 1970

(Next Ambiance/Sub Pop)


[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 other, 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.]


Not ragged, just right, this is Garifuna music, in all its recorded glory. Garifuna is both a
language and a people from the Atlantic side of Central America – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Also called the
Mosquito Coast, it’s where British slaveholders unceremoniously deposited
rebellious slaves from the Caribbean island
of St. Vincent, after a
failed revolt. This is a unique people – African slaves, mixed with the
surviving Indian population of Caribs and Arawaks, exiled to the inhospitable Mosquito Coast in hopes they would perish. Instead, they
survived, creating their own culture. 


Aurelio Martinez fronts a very special collection of Garifuna
musicians tastefully recorded and updated with glorious emotion, substance and
soul.  Excellent liner
notes explain the significance of the songs, so thankfully there are no
lyric sheets. Instead, the wise production lets the emotion pour through.
Opening cut “Lubara Wanwa” is a beaut, from its understated intro to its catchy
rhythms and impressive vocals. It’s even got Youssou N’Dour from Senegal guesting on


Recorded mainly at a beachfront cabin on the Honduran coast, recording
was also done in neighboring Belize,
far away in Senegal and
mixed in Belize and Montreal, a truly
international approach. Songs are excellent all the way through but especially
worthy are cuts like “Ineweyu”, “Nuwaruguma” and “Ereba”.  “Wamada” is an
emotional thank you and memorial to Aurelio’s recently deceased mentor, Andy Palacio, a Belizean who
almost singlehandedly sparked the revival of Garifuna music and culture. Andy’s
recording a few years back Watina (Cumbancha/Stonetree
Records) was the beginning of this enterprise. Laru Beya is the next step in reviving a dormant, neglected music
that deserves worldwide prominence. This could be the Garifuna “Buena Vista Social Club”, except the
musicians here aren’t geezers but contemporary local and regional musicians
intent on reviving their culture.


Belizean producer Ivan Duran, long experienced in Central American music adds sparkling
technique, tastes and sounds to some masterful tunes. His tremolo guitar adds a
special glow and extra texture. Beside Aurelio’s virtuoso vocals and the
wonderful backup singers, the star is the massive percussion. Everything under the sun is here –
congas, maracas, shakers, tama
drums, Garifuna drums, saber drum, turtle shells, calabash,
bongos, conch shells and of course the jawbone of an ass – all artfully
recorded and presented. A minor masterpiece has arrived, dedicated to Andy
Palacio and presented with love to the Garifuna people.


DOWNLOAD:  The whole thing. Listen to it start-to-finish.


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