Friday, April 13, 2007

Review: Watina by Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective

Robin Denselow reviews Andy Palacio's Watina.

This is a stirring, gently soulful album that results from one of the most remarkable stories of the slave trade era. Back in 1635, two slave ships were wrecked off the coast of St Vincent, and the surviving African captives escaped and set up a community of their own, mixing with indigenous local Caribs. The resulting Garifuna people developed their own language and music, but are now less than a quarter of a million in number, spread across the Caribbean and central America. Andy Palacio, from Belize, is the best-known Garifuna singer, and is joined here by musicians from across the region to explore and rework traditional styles, from hymns to laments or protest songs. The backing is provided by guitars, rum bottles or table-top drumming, and the songs range from the light and emotional to a more stirring blend of Garifuna rhythms and reggae. This is far from being merely an academic exercise, and the reminder of a forgotten community. It deserves to be one of the successes of the year.

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