Spread along the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua is a people called the Garifuna. Comprised of people of Amerindian and West African descents, the nation was located on the island of St. Vincent until they were deported in 1796 by the British government. They then landed on Roatan Island in the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Through his work and dedication, multi-talented Honduras-born singer and songwriter Aurelio Martinez, simply known as Aurelio, has become recognized as the International Ambassador of the Garifuna Culture. Over the past 30 years, he has been keeping their music alive—specifically the paranda—with passion and an inspired vision for its future.
Guitar-based and bittersweet, the paranda Garifuna style is often compared to American blues, and Aurelio has brought it to listeners all over the world. Captivating audiences with his expressive voice and enthralling live performances, he is a true storyteller, delivering his eye-opening lyrics over infectious traditional rhythms.
Earlier this year, Aurelio released his fourth studio album Darandi. Presently, the Garifuna are undergoing disputes over land ownership, and, by touching upon themes such as the struggles of the African diaspora and Indigenous people, Darandi continues Aurelio's contribution to the fight to prevent the Garifuna's displacement and maintain the culture. Recorded live in studio while he was in England to perform at Peter Gabriel's acclaimed music festival WOMAD, Darandi is a vibrant, dazzling, statement-making album that highlights all of the brilliant magic of his live performances. "I wanted to record an album that captured the live spirit of my band as if you were listening to us on a stage performance," he explained to Musical Notes Global. "Nothing compares to being there on stage and listening to the music live, all the parts together at the same time and the energy it creates and gives the crowd. This album does that. We've been having a lot of fun on the road playing to our dear audiences who love to dance to my music."
From the energetic rolling percussion of "Dondo" to the compelling vocals of "Sañanaru" to the calm and pretty melodies of "Naguya Nei," each of the 12 songs on the album are songs that hold a special significance for the artist and are also among his favorites. "Over the years I've developed a preference for certain songs while being on tour, some are very close to my heart others are simply fun to play," he said. "These are the songs that have always helped me stay grounded, especially when I am away from home. These songs are like my ancestors and my family, they always travel with me. These are the ones that made it to the album. Its a compilation of my greatest hits from over the course of my 30-year long career."
His favorite song to perform live? "Dugu."
"'Dugu' is a song I started to play with my very first band," he explained. "It always feels like a sacred experience to play it. I always include this song in every set I play. It has a special power that no other song has."
With the complex cultural richness of Darandi comes a surge of excitement regarding what he has in store for the future. "You could say DARANDI is a celebration of two things, the culmination of 30 years of an amazing career taking Garifuna music all over the world and also the start of a new sound," he said. "What's next for me is that new sound that I'm already developing while touring Darandi this year. In this new sound I will take Garifuna music to new and modern avenues. I never want to stop making and playing music, I want to be like our great Paranda master Paul Nabor, who toured with us well into his mid 70's!"
Darandi is now available in deluxe-CD and digital formats on platforms like iTunes and Spotify.
For all of Aurelio's latest news and updates, follow him on social media: