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Album Review

The native music of Belize is strangely hard to come by considering the proximity of the small Central American nation to the United States and the ready availability of music from other neighboring countries. Andy Palacio is perhaps the best known of the lot who has created some buzz outside of the region, and Watina is by far his highest-profile release yet. It's well worth investigating. Palacio is Garifuna, a Caribbean ethnic group that traces its ancestry back to the West African slaves who settled in the Caribbean during the 17th century. Emerging in the '90s, Palacio was at first affiliated with a Caribbean dance music movement called punta rock, but after an encounter with an elder in a Nicaraguan Garifuna enclave, he turned his attentions to the more acoustic, organic traditional Garifuna music displayed on Watina. It's a stirring, sweet, emotional sound, identifiably Caribbean — a touch of soca, a dab of reggae, a hint of Cuban — but equally African in nature in its rhythmic and melodic structure. Palacio sings gruffly in the native Garifuna language, which means that most will never understand the lyrics, many of which address the Garifuna life and the quickening disappearance of that very culture. But no matter, the music succeeds on its own terms, modern in its production and polyrhythms, yet unmistakably tied to local heritage.


Born: 1960 in Belize

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

To understand Andy Palacio and his place in the world music community, one must first understand the precarious position of his oft-forgotten Garifuna people. Two slave ships loaded to the gills with captive West Africans sank off the coast of St. Vincent Island in 1635, and when the survivors swam to shore, they were taken in and given refuge by the indigenous Carib peoples who lived there. The displaced Africans and hospitable Caribs lived and worked together, intermarried, and ultimately created...
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Watina, Andy Palacio
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