Album Review: Aurelio Martinez – Darandi [Real World Records, 20th January]


Dance to the beat of the mayflower drum. Sway with the lilting fluid guitar and chant with lungs full of ocean air.

In his fourth solo album Darandi, Aurelio Martinez shares his impassioned coastal compositions of Garifuna music written across the last thirty years of his career. Aurelio is best known for performing the paranda style of this music, distinguished by surf-like sliding guitar melodies and storytelling of past and current woes.

Garifuna music hails from the coast of Central America, predominantly Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The Garifuna people were inhabitants of the Caribbean island St Vincent mixed with shipwrecked African slaves, but in the 18th century were defeated by European invaders and pushed onto mainland Central America.  Mixing African, Caribbean and indigenous Arawak Indian sounds, you can feel the freedom of ego and purity of organic heritage through his songs.

‘Dugu’ lures you in with the sweet soulful tickling of guitar strings until his voice interjects with rallying vocals. The blend of soulful harmonies and beckoning strength of his intonation lead you into the depths of the song where the groove kicks in and the song unfolds, taking you on a shared journey.

The later track titled ‘Funa Tugudirugu’ sets off into a quick shuffle of percussion based on African and Cuban rhythms. The rippling dialogue between guitar and vocals are teasingly hard to keep pace with, each quick to respond to the other. The crowded soundscape and the rural interluding sounds have you discovering new voices and layers each time you listen.

Some may find this album generally predictable harmonically and the lyrics repetitive. This is, however, a stylistic choice for this easy-listening, inclusive music with an addictive groove.  Despite the happy-go-lucky vibe of syncopated rhythms and routine melodies, there is a serious undertone to the album. There is an intention to preserve the culture as passed-down customs are becoming more extinct as the Garifuna society becomes diluted.  This is an LP that also calls out to the youth to cultivate these traditions.

This is Aurelio’s first album recorded in live takes with all his musicians in one small room, capturing the purity, integrity and energy that instantly opens a porthole into their heritage and sun-drenched souls. Aurelio has many stories to tell and articulates this in a perfectly refined and radiant manner. Listening to this album you can’t help but reflect how important community is to every one of us as we not only dance to these narcotic beats but also dance to the beat of our very own drum.

Come and join us and hear Aurelio play at Rich Mix on the 1st of Feb 2017. Click here for tickets

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