This month’s Society of Sound release comes from the greatest living interpreter of Garifuna music and the master of paranda: Aurelio Martinez.
Throughout his 30 year career, Aurelio’s goal has been to show both the world, and his own community, the richness of the Garifuna paranda tradition – the distinctive, guitar-based Garifuna style often compared to American blues for its bittersweet melodies and sharp social commentaries concealed within songs about everyday life.
This new collection of songs Darandi was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and sees Aurelio and his band, comprising of some of the Garifuna world’s brightest musical talents, performing some of Aurelio’s favourite songs from his long career and capturing the spirit of his incendiary live concerts.
This track-by-track insight into the album is accompanied by a gallery of images taken during the recording of the album.
The dugu is the most important traditional ceremony, which Aurelio evokes in this song. The ritual involves communication with the spirit world, through singing and dancing, with the goal of healing the living through the veneration of the dead.
Funa Tugudirigu is influenced by Aurelio’s love for country and western music from the U.S., which is very popular (perhaps unexpectedly) throughout the Caribbean coastal region of Central America. As legend has it, it’s a musical passion originated by fishermen, who could sometimes pick up AM radio from Alabama or Florida when out at sea.
The title track first recorded on Aurelio’s third studio album, Lándini paints an image from Aurelio’s childhood in Plaplaya. This song is about waiting at the dock for his mother to come gliding down the river, enjoying the silence of the town with the adults all gone to work, listening to the fluttering birdsong of the rainforest at dusk.
Laru Beya is the title track from Aurelio’s second studio album, partially recorded in Senegal. It’s a love song about the women in Aurelio’s hometown who would stand at the edge of the sea before holidays, waiting for their husbands to return from long fishing trips out at sea.
Originally from Aurelio’s first album, Garifuna Soul Aurelio sang Lumalali Lumaniga with his friend and fellow Garifuna music star, the late Andy Palacio of Belize. Lumalali lumaniga translates to “the voice of silence,” referring to the unheard voices of children, the old or the sick—the people who suffer when community leaders pocket money meant for all.
Aurelio feels this song is a good example of how his music harmonically expands on the paranda tradition, which typically uses just a few basic chord progressions. It also features one of the most memorable guitar melodies from Aurelio’s catalogue in the introduction.
The conflicts between men and women, Aurelio says, are common fodder for Garifuna songs. “The power of a woman is sometimes so great that the man can’t control it, and this song reflects that power,” says Aurelio.
This song is a tribute to Sielpa, one of the most important bands in the history of the Garifuna paranda and major inspiration for Aurelio’s music. This song is an adaptation of a classic Sielpa hit, and it has a more traditional harmonic progression and feel than many other Aurelio songs.
Yalifu is one of the standouts from Aurelio’s first album, Garifuna Soul. A lament on the themes of immigration, separation, loss, borders and mobility, themes that particularly resound with the Central American experience and its interdependent relationship with the United States.
Yange is one of the most deeply personal of Aurelio’s songs, as well as one of the most beautiful. It tells of the tragic death of his older brother, José Ángel, nicknamed Yange. This song is written in tribute to his spirit, which lives on in Aurelio’s life and music.
Banda is Aurelio’s version of Naguya Nei—the most iconic song by paranda legend Paul Nabor and a Garifuna standard if ever there was one. Nabor died in 2014, at age 86. In many ways, Aurelio Martinez is carrying on the torch that Paul Nabor lit.
Dondo is a Garifuna classic, written by late Belizean paranda musician Junie Aranda, who famously carried a guitar slung over his back wherever he went.
Aurelio’s version of this Aranda classic is spruced up with some gorgeous tremolo electric guitar lines.