The Garifuna Women's Project: Umalali (Elite)

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The Garifuna Women's Project: Hattie
The Garifuna Women's Project: Umalali (Elite)

The sudden death in January of singer-songwriter Andy Palacio from Belize robbed the Garifuna movement of an important figurehead.

His album Watina took the distinctive music of the coastal people of north-east South America -- who speak Arawak, a native Indian language once found in Jamaica -- and put it into the pages of world music magazines.

The sound -- an amalgam of local country-folk, African rhythms, and the cultural cross-references inevitable when slaves fleeing the Caribbean encountered local Indian tribes -- reflects these small communites and the songs are full of storytelling and evocative of the balmy region.

Although Palacio may be gone the music finds life again on this wonderful album for which a young producer Ivan Duran gave up a decade of his life to research the music, make the contacts and finally gain the friendship of a number of women whom he gathered in the small town of Hopkins in Belize and recorded them in a small thatched hut on stilts at a beach.

Although this doesn't sound like a rough field recording (because he tinkered with the tapes back in his own studio) that environment means this album bursts to life with energy and is carried by the lively rhythms and the powerful voices. Duran seems to have added the guitar parts too (Afro-surf music) and that lifts the whole thing that extra level.

Worthy project and great music.

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