From 2006 to 2010, singer-songwriter Aurelio Martinez served in the Honduran congress, where he championed the concerns of the Garifuna — a marginalized community descended from African slaves and Caribbean Indians. But Aurelio has turned back to music full-time, and with his band Garifuna Soul, he's just released a new album called Laru Beya.
Garifuna music has mysterious Afro-Caribbean roots, with West African rhythms, a Latin lilt and flavors of reggae and calypso. At the core is a unique language and poetic tradition, focused on the hard lives of disempowered people who live at the mercy of the sea. In "Weimbayuwa," Aurelio sings about sharks — his characterization of the politicians with whom he worked in the Honduran congress.
"Bisien Nu" features the veteran Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab on backing vocals. Aurelio has forged a special tie with Senegal, thanks to a corporate program that sent him there to mentor with Youssou N'Dour — arguably Africa's greatest living singer and bandleader. Aurelio and N'Dour mix it up together in "Wamada," recorded in memory of the late Garifuna star Andy Palacio.
Tasty Senegalese flavors are inserted throughout Laru Beya. But the album keeps its focus on Garifuna music, with its rolling rhythms and irresistible folk melodies. The language and culture of the Garifuna may be threatened in their home countries, but their music has achieved outsize recognition internationally. With his talent, vision, charisma and searing voice, Aurelio is a big part of the reason.