Born in the tiny coastal hamlet of Plaplaya on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, Aurelio Martinez, 39, may be one of the last generations to grow up steeped in Garifuna tradition. These traditions encompass the African and Caribbean Indian roots of his ancestors, a group of shipwrecked slaves who intermarried with local natives on the island of St. Vincent, only to be deported to the Central American coast in the late eighteenth century.
At the heart of every song on Laru Beya beats a traditional Garifuna rhythm. However, beyond the beauties of Garifuna tradition and Aurelio’s striking interpretations lie the true guiding force behind the album: the loss of his late friend and mentor, Garifuna musical icon, Andy Palacio. Palacio, won regional popularity as the powerhouse behind punta rock, a Garifuna-rock synthesis that broke onto the Central American scene in the 1990s. International acclaim followed with an award-winning album in 2007 that truly put Garifuna music on the map.
A mere month after Andy’s death, Aurelio and producer Ivan Duran, headed for a small fishing village, where they set up a studio in a beachfront house. Recording and living by the sea for several weeks, they were still in grief and shock, yet they knew they had to do something amazing to honor Palacio’s life and work. Aurelio was able to explore the Garifuna connection to Africa when Senegalese Afropop legend Youssou N’Dour selected him as his protege in 2008. N’Dour encouraged Martinez to channel his virtuosity, to balance his evanescent stage presence with reserve until just the right moment. N’Dour also contributed his unique vocal abilities to several songs on Laru Beya.
The album is the second release on Next Ambiance, an imprint founded by Jon Kertzer host of KEXP’s Best Ambiance radio show and Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. The label’s first release was I Speak Fula (Feb. 2010) by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba. I Speak Fula was also recently nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Traditional World Music Album.” SPIN: “I Speak Fula effortlessly mixes the rapid-fire pluck of bluegrass, the doleful churn of the blues, the joyous pulse of Afropop, and (in a makeover from his gentler 2007 debut) the caffeinated whirl of high-velocity rock.” Laru Beya is not only Next Ambiance’s second release, but Aurelio’s as well. Garifuna Soul, his 2005 album on Stonetree Records, was described by Songlines Magazine with, “It really is like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
Release/catalogue number: 72002
Release date: Jan 18, 2011