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Awards for World Music 2008
Andy Palacio
Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective album cover

Andy Palacio passed away on January 19th 2008.
Official Press Release
Andy Palacio's WOMEX Award acceptance speech
  October 28 2007, Seville, Spain (PDF document)

The profile below was written before Andy Palacio's death.

In 1635, two Spanish ships overloaded with enslaved West Africans sank off the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The survivors mixed with the indigenous Carib people, creating a new culture and language. When they later resisted British colonizers, all were deported to the Caribbean coast of Central America in 1797. Their descendents are the Garifuna people of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.

Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective are now leading the struggle to maintain their Garifuna language and musical culture, which is in danger of being swamped by other tongues and imported sounds. During the 1990s, Palacio made his name as the leading exponent of punta rock, a hard-driving electric dance music stewed from local styles, rock and reggae.

As well as working for Belize's National Institute of Culture and History and being named a Cultural Ambassador, he released several fine solo albums, and was involved in the seminal compilation Paranda (1998).

Several artists on that disc also feature in the new multi-generational Garifuna Collective, who released Wátina (I Called Out) in 2007. It's full of surging seaside rhythms and yearning, soulful melodies that hang in the memory. Fat Boy Slim is a big fan and has threatened remixes, but such swinging grooves should have no need of celebrity DJ champions. Even though Palacio has a lovely lived-in voice, the song writing and vocals are shared out among his all-star colleagues. They're backed by acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, sax, a hooting conch shell and various snare-like hand drums with distinctively frayed, buzzing sound textures. Local styles they explore include dugu, gungei, punta roots, and the more latinesque paranda ballads.

There's also a touch of slinky reggae ­ after all, Jamaica is just across the water.

In the summer of 2007 Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective made a series of UK appearances, complete with rustic tortoise shell drum kits and extra electricity. For such a mover and shaker, Palacio has a surprisingly discreet stage presence, and the man who really stole the shows was the 79-year-old Paul Nabor, his wiry arms stretching out expressively like a benevolent witch-doctor as he sang in his keening nasal way.

Jon Lusk


Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

André B. Sosa, MD, Belize City
The songs on the Watina album reach into the soul and remind Afro-Belizeans, not only Garifuna Belizeans, of the ancestral homeland, Africa, and of the journey from slavery to present day. The album is also the culmination of his journey ... his struggle to revive the pride in our national/regional heritage. He has been able to unite all Belizeans in the joy of his music and the pain of his passing.

Rob Chesterfield
Absolutely stunned. Weyu Lariga Weyu says everything that is soulful in life. Andy will be greatly missed.

D2J, Dublin

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