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Andy Palacio (Belize)
Andy Palacio was born and raised in the coastal village of Barranco. Palacio grew up listening to traditional Garifuna music while being exposed to the music on the radio from neighboring Honduras, Guatemala and the United States.
Along with several of his peers he formed acapelal singing groups and bands while nurturing his voice. While working on a Garifuna literacy project in Nicaragua in 1980 Palacio realize that the Garifuna language and culture was on the verge of disappearing.
"I saw what happened to my people. The cultural erosion I saw deeply affected my outlook, and I definitely reacted to that reality." Palacio delved deeper into the traditional chants and rhythms of the Garifuna. "I feel that music was the best way to preserve the culture. It's a way of maintaining cultural pride and self esteem - especially in young people."
When Palacio returned to Belize he met " a renaissance of young Garifuna intellectuals," whom were writing poetry and songs in their native language. He saw the surfacing of a new music that was eventually dubbed Punta Rock and eagerly contributed to the form. He is regarded by many as the founder of this genre.
In 1987 Palacio was invited to work in London with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community based arts organization. He returned to Belize a better musician equipped with a four track recording system, and helped to establish "Sunrise", an association committed to preserving, documenting and distributing Belizean music.
Since 1988, Palacio’s popularity has continued increasing in Belize and abroad, he performs for audiences throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and in Europe. He was the first musical artist from Belizean to have a video on international television. He received the award for "Best New Artist" at the Caribbean Music Awards in 1991. He lives in Belize.
The tale of Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective traces its roots to the early 1980s, when a teenage Palacio traveled from his home in the Central American country of Belize to Nicaragua to serve in a literacy campaign. Palacio is Garifuna, a unique culture based on the Caribbean coast of Central America that blends elements of West African and Native Caribbean heritage. Andy was told that Nicaragua’s local Garifuna traditions and language were all but extinct. He was en route via boat to the Nicaraguan village of Orinoco to begin his first literacy assignment, when a storm forced a change of direction, leading to a surprise encounter that had a lasting impact on Palacio’s music, career, and life mission. The legacy of this life-changing meeting lives on in the music of Wátina, a stunning new album featuring an all-star, multigenerational lineup of Garifuna musicians from Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras that will be released by the recently-formed record label Cumbancha on February 27, 2007.
At first, Palacio became a local star of Punta rock, an upbeat Garifuna dance music infused with synthetic beats and keyboards. The Punta rock movement of the ‘90s was in keeping with trends established by successful world music artists such as zouk pioneers Kassav who blended the latest studio technology with their traditional music. But that was not to be Palacio’s ultimate musical course.
“Under the direction of my producer Ivan Duran, I made a 180 degree turn,” exclaims Palacio, in his lilting, Caribbean-inflected English. “And I am so happy now to take a completely human experience onto the stage as opposed to where I saw myself heading in the mid ’90s with samplers, sequencers, and instrumental backing tracks. I look back and I cringe. I don’t feel a need to be devoid of technology, I do not want to become a slave to it.”
Belizean producer and musician Ivan Duran has spent the last ten years seeking out and recording what he calls “the soulful side of Garifuna music.” He says, “We’re not doing the strictly danceable material of Punta rock, where the lyrics are basically ‘Shake up your waist and dance!’ The fascinating thing you will notice about the styles we are doing is that the beauty is in the simplicity. Garifuna songs may only have two lines, and if you transcribe them, you still do not get the full meaning. But a good Garifuna song is like a photograph. It captures a moment in time; a split second of someone’s life.”
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