25 January, 2008 - Published 10:14 GMT

Belize's world music man

Belize will on Saturday 26 January host a rare state funeral for a musician.

But Andy Palacio was no ordinary musician.

He single-handedly put Belize on the world music map.

The 47 year-old cultural icon died in Belize on Saturday January 19 after suffering a massive heart attack.

His 2007 album Wátina had become one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre.

Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of 'Best of the Year' lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms.

World music critics described Andy Palacio as an iconic musician and cultural activist in his native Belize and impassioned spokesperson for the Garifuna people of Central America.

Cultural icon

In 2007, Palacio was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and won the prestigious WOMEX Award.

Wátina was also nominated for the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.

At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio's example.

The Garifuna people are descended from rebellious slaves on the island of St Vincent.

Removed after a failed rebellion in St Vincent, the Garifuna people were finally taken to another then British territory, British Honduras, now known as Belize.

Palacio talked passionately about the history of the Garifuna people when interviewed in 2007 by BBC Caribbean.

Hear Sasha Gankin's July 2007 interview with Andy Palacio

'A proud Garifuna'

In the Garifuna culture, the death of a loved one is an opportunity to celebrate their memory and rejoice in having been blessed to have had them in your life.

"We feel so fortunate to have known this incredible individual and we mourn the loss of a truly great man", his recording company, Stonetree records said in a statement.

In his interview, BBC Caribbean's Sasha Gankin asked Andy Palacio how he wanted to be remembered when he died.

He replied, "As a proud Garifuna...someone who instills pride in Garifuna and raises their self-esteem."

"To me, that's the most important thing."

A massive tribute concert takes place in Belize City on 25 January.

Belize: Caribbean and Central American

Belize has more in common with the Caribbean island-states than with its Central American neighbours and is a member of the Caribbean Community, Caricom.

This is reflected in its major languages, English and Creole, and in its mainly Anglo-Caribbean architecture and its relatively peaceful political culture.

It also has peoples and cultures found elsewhere in the Americas - Spanish-speaking Mestizos, who are of mixed Maya Indian and European ancestry, Creoles, who speak a Creole dialect of English and who are often of African and African-European extraction.

The Garifuna people are the descendants of Carib Indians and Africans.