Aurelio - Lándini

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Until the multinational banana plantations came to Central America in the 1870s, the small fishing and farming villages of the African-Amerindian Garifuna people pretty much defined life on the Caribbean coast from northern Nicaragua to Belize. Much has changed since then, and if Garifuna territory mostly escaped the armed violence that swept the region in the 1970s and 1980s (if not the ensuing vigilante expropriation of Garifuna land for “development” by Honduran oligarchs), it's hardly the remote idyll of copywriter imagination. Indeed, rooted in a proud history of resistance to slavery, Garifuna communities cultivate a resilient sense of cultural independence—a distinct ethical, spiritual, linguistic, and territorial identity—while fully and astutely engaging on their own terms with the wider world.


From coastal Honduras, guitarist-singer-songwriter-dancer Aurelio Martínez has been at it for over 20 years, and if one were to revisit his original ensemble, Lita Ariran (Songs of the Garifuna, JVC, 1994, a collector's item), the impassioned potential manifest there is fully realized with Lándini, Aurelio's strongest outing yet. All it took was to revive several traditional Garifuna songs, to co-author several more with his mother María (“the sole inspiration for this album”), and to work out the rest with his long-time associates, Belizean producer and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Duran, Guayo Cedeño and Sam Harris (guitars), Al Ovando (guitar, Maya guitar, bass), Chichiman Sosa and Joshua Arana (Garifuna drums, percussion), and a potent host of backing singers. Characteristic of every release from the Stonetree studio in Belize, this is a finely polished work whose abundant sonic tapestry, Duran's master signature, is only perceived with repeat close listening, best with headphones (and don't settle for an MP3 download).


Aurelio's turn toward tradition affirms the archetypal interplay of melody, antiphony, and polyrhythm, the heart and soul of Garifuna music and dance. Experience at its most mundane, the substance of everyday existence, is the worthiest of material for the best of artists. Of the fullness evident here, in just one example, Aurelio's “Milaguru,” inspired by a coastal ferry's sinking with all aboard, queries the indifference of nature to mortal fate, and the long tail of torment in its wake. One need not comprehend the Garifuna language to perceive throughout this sublime album the bittersweet expression of friendship, humor, affection, longing, betrayal, loss, and inescapable demise, familiar haunts of the human condition, and the substance of rooted artistry at its finest. - Michael Stone

Further reading:
400 years of fury, 400 years of sound


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