World music enthusiasts around the globe are mourning the unexpected death of Andy Palacio, Belizean musician and leader of the international movement to preserve Garifuna language and culture. Palacio’s latest album Wátina (“I called out”), released in 2007, propelled him onto the international stage and sparked a cultural revival in his home nation of Belize.
In November 2007, Traveler’s Susanne Hackett had the fortune to meet “Andy P,” as he is affectionately known in Belize, and travel the country’s Garifuna coast with him and his band, camcorder in hand. The trip was a homecoming for Andy, who had just finished a whirlwind international tour, during which he won the prestigious world music WOMEX award and the UNESCO Artist for Peace award. His arrival also happened to coincide with the annual Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations, where Andy was the headliner and received a hometown hero’s welcome.
The video below is a compilation of the footage gathered on this trip.
The Garifuna culture was born in the Caribbean in the 1600s, when a ship bearing captives from Africa was wrecked off the coast of St. Vincent. Those who survived and swam ashore integrated into the indigenous societies on the island, adopting the Carib language and customs. The resulting hybrid culture became today's Garifuna (also called "Garinagu"), who still retain ties to both ancestries. In 1796, driven from the island by British colonists, they made a second arduous voyage west and settled along the coasts of what are today Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Like many minority cultures, the Garifuna today feel the pressures of globalization and must fight to hold on to their language and cultural traditions.
To learn more about his music and to share memories of Andy Palacio, visit his record company's blog.