Aurelio Martinez–these days, just Aurelio–has been a major figure in Central American Garifuna music for decades. The Garifuna descend from escaped African slaves and Caribbean natives. They trace their origins to an 18th century shipwreck of the island of St. Vincent. Garifuna live in marginalized communities in Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Their language is vanishing. Their African derived religion–dügü–is largely clandestine. There are few of the old paranda troubadours, like Aurelio’s father. Garifuna rhythms survive in watered down form in punta rock songs, but elders feel that the old culture is disappearing before their eyes.
All this has been preamble to the careers of Aurelio and his Belizian friend and colleague, the late Andy Palacio. Aurelio is a gifted singer, guitarist, and songwriter. His 2004 release Garifuna Soul made Afropop’s top ten list that year. After that, Aurelio spent four years in the Honduran congress, advocating for his people in the political sphere. Now he has returned to music full time with a new release called Laru Beya (On the Beach). Banning Eyre caught up with Aurelio in Bronx recently. The singer has been spending time in the New York area to work on English (his third language) and be near his mother, who lives in Brooklyn. Here’s their conversation. Aurelio’s English is imperfect, but you’ll get his meaning.
B.E.: Aurelio, welcome back to Afropop. The last time we spoke was a few years ago in Boston. It was right after Andy had died, and you were filling in on the tour with the Umalali and the Garifuna Collective. You spoke then about the album you were working on, and now here it is..
A.M.: Yes. It’s coming out now. It’s very special. My idea the first time is very simple. Because we worked on this album with the Garifuna community in Honduras, in San Juan, by the beach. We do everything there. We record with all people. Bring the Garifuna ladies to sing on this album. The same community, all the musicians, in the same place, working together on this album. So this time when we say, okay, finished, Ivan (Duran, the producer) has to mix everything. And at the same time came this opportunity to come to Senegal, the Rolex Mentor and protégé program. I was going to Senegal to exchange with Youssou N’Dour in one month. In this time, I got this opportunity to exchange with other artists. We bring the experience inside this album. This album is an exchange. Youssou N’Dour is singing a song. Orchestral Baobab is singing some songs. And Oumar Barro and is like a griot from Senegal. He is singing on some songs. So we bring young people to sing new styles, reggae and reggaeton, R&B. Something like that inside. This album is very special in my life. Because today there are no more walls to Garifuna music. This is an exchange. You have an opportunity to say to the world, “this is Garifuna music. And Garifuna music is another kind of music, a special kind of music around the world.”
B.E.: So you went to Senegal to mentor with Youssou, and ended up with him and other Senegalese artists singing on your CD.
A.M.: By the time Youssou N’Dour is coming, it is easy to sing in my song. You have Orchestra Baobab singing in Garifuna. Never in this life! It’s a very special time, a beautiful experience.
B.E.: Where is Orchestra Baobab singing here?
A.M.: On “Laru Beya.” SINGS It’s French. Orchestra Baobab is singing.
B.E.: How long did you spend in Senegal?
A.M.: I spent there one month. Ivan Duran was coming with his microphone and everything to Africa to follow me. We made some videos on the beach in Dakar. But at the same time, because we had to take this time to bring something that left Africa for America to come back. So it’s very good to keep the history about the Garifuna coming back to our roots. Youssou N’Dour says that this time is not only a mentoring time because we have to reconnect our roots. Reconnect them. Something that is left is coming back. So in the program from Rolex, not too many times has something like that happened. I loved this time. When I come to Africa, I am crying. Crying on the beach, to see Gorée, the island where the African people left to come to America. So this time, I take a picture in my mind. I took a picture in my mind when my family, my parents coming here, don’t want to loose their families. I asked some people, they say, “The writer doesn’t write the reality of the story.” Maybe the history says something like 2 million African people coming to America. But it’s not really that. There were more coming. Many were going to the ocean are never coming back.
B.E.: And we don’t hear much about that.
A.M.: Yeah. Because I see this thing in my mind. When I sit down, I cry. Because it’s a dream for me, coming back to Africa.
B.E.: You had never been to Africa?
A.M.: No. This was the first time. First time. So I cry. It’s my dream, and Andy Palacio’s dream too. He don’t do that. So Andy Palacios dies, and his dream is complete in my experience.
B.E.: Let me ask you about Rolex. Did you have to apply to this program, or did they just come and find you?
A.M.: LAUGHS It’s very special. Now, I am talking in English. I’m talking a little more. My first language is Garifuna. My second language is Spanish. And maybe two years ago, I couldn’t talk like this. I’m just saying I’m sorry to everyone around here.
B.E.: I remember when we spoke in 2008. You are much better now. Keep at it.
A.M.: I’m learning English now. So it’s a very special time for me now in New York. Because we have to talk about Garifuna culture. Because it is very rich. And we need ambassadors to talk about this beautiful and good culture, and good music. I have to talk to everybody because English is a universal language. So it is a very easy channel to say to everybody what has happened with Garifuna music. So Youssou N’Dour… When I got into this program, Ivan Duran called me. I see in the Internet about some program with Rolex, and the interview is in English. Uh. Because I don’t know how to talk English, Ivan. And Ivan says, “Maybe you can do it.” I say yes. And Ivan says yes.
So we have the interview. They call me from Geneva, Switzerland, by telephone. My first interview with Rolex is a problem. I’m talking, talking about… stop. Stop please. Again…. Oh, sorry. This is the first step. The other step, they call back. “Okay, you, we decide you are in.” I am very happy in this time. The second step is them saying, “Your mentor is from Africa.” I had heard about Youssou N’Dour before this program. I hear Youssou is a good singer from Africa, a social singer. Then I say, “Youssou N’Dour. Wow!” I like Youssou N’Dour’s music. I hear it, but not too much, because in Honduras, we don’t hear world music. No radio station plays world music. No. But I have a little group of friends, and we talk about world music, and we have meetings, and we are talking. So this is a special group.
A long time ago, I played with some guy in Honduras his name is Guillermo Anderson. He had an artist’s collective. So I am the first member. I opened this group, created it with him. So we are talking about music around the world, theaters and shows. We do something with different kinds of act. So it’s a special time when they says to me, “You have to me you have to go into Africa.” Wow. My dream has come true.
B.E.: This is 2008? After Andy died?
A.M.: After. Andy knew about my mentor program with Youssou N’Dour.
B.E.: So it had been arranged before he died, but it had not yet happened.?
B.E.: So when you went to Senegal, you met Youssou for the first time?
A.M.: Yes. They decide for three persons around the world. Finalists. Three. Two women, and me. One from Argentina, indigenous music and drum. And one from United States, a blues singer, a black lady singing blues and jazz. And me. Three persons going to Senegal. Youssou N’Dour has to decide for one. LAUGHS. Maybe like a casting call. So Youssou N’Dour brings us to one studio, and bring drums, bring keyboard, bring indigenous drum inside. Everybody is allowed to play in front of Youssou one song. So what do you say? You have to say something. So, one by one. And I am the last. First ladies. So, Youssou N’Dour is very easy to improvise with. I like to improvise. Improvisation is my best way. So I like this way because it is going to improvise. And I improvise good. I see these ladies, good singers, and the things are sounding good. But when it’s time to improvise, it’s very difficult.
B.E.: So you improvised with Youssou, or he with you?
A.M.: First, me. Only myself in front of him. So, sometimes he is coming and give you something. SINGS. You have to do the same like him. So he is singing in Wolof. My language is not Wolof. I’m Garifuna. So he sings some melody in Wolof, I sing this melody in Garifuna. He sings something, and I harmonize. I give something in his melody in my voice, in Garifuna. Wolof and Garifuna, same. Same chords, different language. Wow! Youssou N’Dour at this time had one month to decide. One month to say. But in the same day, he says, “I don’t have to wait one month to say what happened. I don’t have to wait. Tomorrow, I decide.” All night, nobody sleeps! Waiting for Youssou’s decision. But I know I am it.
B.E.: You can feel the connection.
A.M.: Yes. I feel it. Because I am an artist, and sometimes I have to make a decision about something. Because I have a long life. My first time to work in social life, I was very young. So I have some experience. I have some spirits to help make decisions. So I have to feel, when I do good and when I do bad.
B.E.: That’s beautiful. What song did you sing for Youssou?
A.M.: I have a song, singing about this history. It was my first song on the Garifuna Soul album, “Africa.” I’m talking about this dream of going to Africa. I want to reconnect with my roots and my ancestors. I love Africa. It was my first song. My first song. So this dream was complete when I went to Senegal to exchange with Youssou N’Dour. So the second day, he said “Aurelio is the guy.” And these ladies are crying. Oh! So, wow. He just had to make a decision.
So it is a very special time. I know that. Because this is some dream that we have got. The Garifuna people, we don’t have stars. The first good thing that happened in the Garifuna culture about the music is Andy Palacio. Because he has a Grammy nomination, and WOMEX. [Andy Palacio was honored as Artist of the Year and performed at the 2007 WOMEX conference in Seville, Spain, just months before he died unexpectedly.] Well, something happened when Andy Palacio takes a Grammy nomination, and WOMEX. It’s the first time.
B.E.: Things really started coming up after that.
A.M.: Me and Andy, we worked together on this thing. When I do some album, Andy Palacio comes to help me, to sing together with me. And when he has his album, I go and sing with him. SINGS. We write this song together with Andy, and we sing this song on his album. “Watina, Watina.” I am singing with Andy Palacios together on his songs too. So we were keeping together on this project, the Garifuna music project. Because different sounds, different voices, different people. Then sometimes, we are soldiers.
B.E.: Garifuna cultural soldiers. Nice.
A.M.: LAUGHS. Yeah, we have be soldiers. Andy Palacio is one. We have pistolas musicas. The gun is music.
B.E.: Like Fela said, music is the weapon of the future.
A.M.: Yes. So we don’t have stars, a lot of stars. Because young people prefer to hear maybe R&B people, and reggaeton, and other kinds of music, because we don’t have this power inside to see the other people. So in television, radio, everything, we hear salsa, merengue, and R&B. You don’t hear Garifuna music. You don’t hear our people. You don’t hear what a person like Andy is following. [THE PHONE RINGS. IT’S AURELIO’S BROTHER.]
B.E.: Your brother? Is that the same brother you sing about on the new album?
A.M.: No. That brother died. I’m talking about that in this song. The song is “Yange.”
B.E.: Okay. We’ll come to the CD. You were talking about your work with Andy.
A.M.: My history is very special. Because I don’t work music to make money. I do music to support my culture. This thing is the first thing bringing together Andy Palacio and Aurelio Martinez. Andy Palacio knows about this support of his culture. To translate this heritage to young people to support. So Andy Palacio went to Nicaragua to teach young people, because that language in Nicaragua is lost. He bring me every year, to Belize to sing and talk to young people about Garifuna music. So I feel Garifuna people, if we don’t save this culture, if we don’t support this culture, the Garifuna people are lost. Garifuna culture is lost. UNESCO declared the Garifuna culture a heritage for humanity. It’s simple. It’s very simple. Because we have to do something to support this culture. This mentor time is the first help I receive in my life to support my work.
B.E.: Really? The Rolex program was the first time you have received support?
A.M.: The first time in my life. Eight years I’ve been working. I learned about Garifuna culture when I was young. When I had 14 years, I left from my house. I don’t have daddy, I don’t have mommy, I don’t have nobody. I ran out from my house. My first band was 16 years. Professional band. 16 years old. I don’t have daddy. I don’t have mommy to save my life. I have to work during the day, and I going to school at night. It’s my life.
B.E.: You’ve been very dedicated.
A.M.: So, nobody supports my life. Since I have 14 years, I support my life. Coming from the small village to the big city, La Ceiba, and going to the school for myself, and supporting the culture, learning about the culture, and to doing my work in the culture way, I don’t stop. Any time, working with Garifuna music. So then, this young guy coming from a small village is a congressman? First, going into political life, it’s not for me. But the support is very, very difficult for black people in Honduras. So I’m city Council in La Ceiba for four years. And then the next stop in this same process — I don’t stop — eight years in political life. First I go to Congressman, in the parliament. Four years.
B.E.: Four years in City Council, and then four years Parliament.
A.M.: Yes. Working. Eight years working. But I don’t stop doing music. Congressman Monday through Thursday. And the weekend, I’m going to Europe, and I’m coming back Monday. Working every day.
B.E.: Was it hard to be both a musician and a politician at the same time?
A.M.: That’s very hard. In two ways very hard. Because your life changes. I don’t have life. No personal life. Only public life, because art and politics, that’s public. So personal life? You don’t have time to do nothing. So this is the first part. When I go from Honduras to Europe, the change in hours, to sleep, to eat, like to make food — it’s very difficult. Impersonal. Then, second way. In my country, the political people… Everybody talks in the wrong way for the political people. Now Aurelio Martinez is coming in the same way. That’s people talking, that he’s becoming corrupted. I don’t like that. I feel bad. Because all my life, my mother taught me about this straight way. When I come into the house, and I bring something in the house inside, my mom asks about where did I find this thing. Every item is explained about what the people are saying. My mom ring me in this house. “You get this thing to my son?” So I learn about this straight way. I don’t corrupt. I don’t feel superior. I don’t talk down. I’m clear. Not many politicians do that.
B.E.: So you are different from them right away in that sense.
A.M.: Yes. And everywhere in my mind, I have to give something good to the next generation. Good examples. And the music, and politics, and everywhere I go, I have a big responsibility to give something good to my people. And this example is good to everybody around the world, because the corruption, not only in Honduras, everywhere, so we need some people to say that politics is not bad. But the question is the people. Politics is not bad. Politics.
B.E.: But after eight years of that, you decided, no more politics, music.
A.M.: No. I’m coming back to my… Lucky Dube say it some time, I’m coming back to my roots. I have a mission around Garifuna music. I have a mission because I have to say to everybody around the world about this beautiful culture, about the beautiful music. We have to say something good to the young generation, to Garifuna people, to say, “You have something good in your village. If you take this thing and you hide, you’ve got to do a special thing around the world.”
B.E.: In the end, that’s more important than politics.
A.M.: Yes. Yes. Yes. And my music has the power, not only in my soul when I go to the stage, because I have a message about the problems in the community. Because the problems around the world, not only local music, international music, we’ve got a lot of problems around the world. Music is a good way to say to politicians, to countries, to everybody, some special things to change when something bad happens around the world, or in the village. Music is a good way. It’s a soft way. Because music don’t fight with nobody.
B.E.: But it can change them, change their mind?
A.M.: Not only mind. Your soul. I like this way. I know this way in the music because I’ve been waiting for something good, not for me. Because when something happens about this music, and it comes true with some money for Aurelio Martinez, my decision is to open some school, an artists’ school, in the village. Because we don’t have one in Central America.
B.E.: This is something you want to do in the future?
A.M.: I am creating the foundation now. Soul Garifuna. I’m talking about this foundation because I feel in my heart that something happens. Something happens. And this Laru Beya album [SPANISH puts the exclamation point on the life of Andy Palacio so it can continue to the next level.]
B.E. So going back to your story, you were in the process of making this record, the enough follow-up to Garifuna Soul, and then all these things start happening, Andy dying, the Rolex opportunity… and all of that goes in to this record.
A.M.: All the emotions are inside this album. To create this album cost three years. Working. Working. Because the Garifuna music [SPANISH the creation and the work of Garifuna music has a different intent. Different from anything else we have. No one before has made a record that could interchange so freely a little of the Caribbean, a little bit of Africa, it’s the connection to we have.] Something like bolero, but not bolero. Something like reggae, but not reggae. Something like mbalax, but not mbalax. Garifuna music.
B.E.: All the things are reconnected. And you hear this in the record. Let’s talk about the songs on the record, starting with the song you sing with Youssou “Lubara Wanwa.”
A.M.: “Lubara Wanwa.” The song is talking about life. Some mothers, some moms, some ladies, don’t save life. We call on these ladies to support life. Because when somebody has a child inside, it’s a hard life. Yeah? It’s a hard life. So we have to support life. When his mom gives life, when one lady gives life, she completes God’s decision. It’s an opportunity. A big opportunity. So were talking about life, the mother and son. Beautiful song.
B.E.: You had recorded this already, and then Youssou added to it.
B.E.: Let’s talk about the title song, “Laru Beya.”
A.M.: “Laru Beya” is like romantic. Because sometimes, or many times, some of our men go to the United States, and their women wait on the beach. “Laru Beya” is on the beach.
B.E.: She is waiting on the beach for the person who went away to come back?
A.M.: Yes. I wait for you around the beach, so I can make love to you on the beach. Children are working around the beach, and we are waiting for you on the beach.
B.E.: And that song has a little bit of reggae and it, but it’s not reggae.
A.M.: Yes. It’s like a bolero. SINGS. Like a Cuban bolero, like reggae. Different times. What you feel. It’s beautiful. LAUGHS.
B.E.: Tel me about your connection with Orchestra Baobab.
A.M.: There are two songs with Orchestra Baobab.
B.E.: How did that happen?
A.M.: When I arrived to Senegal, I was going to the clubs at night. To see clubs, to see everything that happens in Senegal. And we went to this club and Orchestra Baobab is playing there. When I hear this song, it’s like Cuba. And I say, I know this songs. I feel this song. I’m going to the stage, I take the mic, and I’m singing with them. In Spanish! I sing in Spanish and improvise in his song. Wow! He don’t know me. I don’t know him. I don’t know this is Orchestra Baobab. I am just singing with one band in Senegal in a club. So, Ivan Duran is with me. He comes on the stage and talks with the singers. I don’t know what happened. They were fixing things. To bring them to the studio to sing with me. LAUGHS
B.E.: And you said they sing in Garifuna?
A.M.: In Garifuna. And sometimes they sing in Wolof. It’s a beautiful story. A great story. Great, great, great. I love it. When I talk about it, I’m coming back in my mind, everything that happened in San Juan, Honduras, and in Senegal, and Africa. Special. Special.
B.E.: Tell me about the song “Yange.”
A.M.: Yange. The song is more sad. For me. Because the song is talking about my brother. It says, “Like my father.” Because my father came to the United States when I was three years old. So he was my best friend, my brother, Angel. We called him at home Yange. He was working on a boat, a fishing boat. He was the chef on the boat. Somebody gave him a piece of cheese that had poison. Somebody put poison in the cheese.
A.M.: I don’t know. My brother coming back, 16 years old. He had operations. I don’t know what kind. Because no doctor find nothing on my brother. Opened. And I bring him to Mexico to see some doctors there. Nothing. Can we talk about this problem. 16 years. It’s a very difficult song, because maybe my brothers with me in my first group. My first band. Traditional dance. He is playing the Garifuna drum with me. So it’s a close one, close to my heart. Because I’m talking about this problem, people who don’t have something good in their hearts to do something bad like that. So “Yange” is a very special song for me. Because he had the love, the energy, the power, this guy.
B.E.: What about Weibayuwa?
A.M.: “Weibayuwa.” That’s my political experience. Weibayuwa. You know tubarones?
A.M.: Politics is weibayuwa. [SPANISH: Sharks. When there is blood in the water, they are everywhere.] Politics is like that. He finds money, everybody is together. Money brings them. To find power. Like sharks. So this is my experience, because I talk about this thing, because every four years, we see the politicians in the communities talking about projects, talking about dreams for these people. “I change your life. I bring you big projects.” But not really. Because the problem in the community is the same problem. The rich people in my country come into the election to vote. But the impoverished people, they don’t have schools. They don’t have food in their house, because the sharks are there ready to eat. The sharks are ready to attack. Every four years. I’m talking about.
B.E.: What about “Yurumei”?
A.M.: St. Vincent. Because we were born in St. Vincent. The Garifuna people are born in St. Vincent. I talk about the history. Because Garifuna people lived for many years in St. Vincent, so we’re talking about the black man and a white man. White people and black people. So these black people, the white people take out. They take them out from yurumei. So our community moved to a different kind of life, very bad. Garifuna history is very, very, very funny, and very difficult. We leave. We have food. We have music. We have the language. We have everything. When they decide to take out the Garifuna people from St. Vincent, they don’t have roots. They put these people on the boat. Take out.
B.E.: To where?
A.M.: I don’t know.
B.E.: To Belize, to Honduras, to places on the coast? And this is how the Garifuna become dispersed?
A.M.: It’s only one boat. It arrives to Punta Gorda, that’s the first community in Honduras. And Punta Gorda coming to the coast. Because Punta Gorda is on an island, Roatan. So first going to the coast, and then some people going to Nicaragua. So the second country is Honduras.
B.E.: First St. Vincent, and then Honduras.
A.M.: Yes. Honduras, the same people, the same boat. Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Belize. That’s the history.
B.E.: Do we know when that boat sailed?
A.M.: We have 240 years ago. It happened then.
B.E.: The late 1700s.
B.E.: What about “Ineweyu”?
A.M.: “Ineweyu.” It’s a funny song. LAUGHS. Because it’s talking about… yes, we have some African influence in our life. Okay? Because the Garifuna people want one or two women in his life. Only one correctly. And then other… things…
B.E.: On the side, as they say.
A.M.: Yes. So the real wife finds him in his bed with the other woman. She says, “You don’t walk in my step no more.” You don’t walk on mystep no more.
B.E.: Oh. I see. You don’t come up my steps no more.
A.M.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I find you with another woman in the marriage bed. It’s a beautiful woman, too. You have to be in a good way, with only one.
B.E.: That’s the message of the song.
A.M.: Yes. The message is… a woman expects a man to find one woman for himself. It’s a good way. She expects that. Because man to woman, woman to man. Yes. We don’t need no more. Only one is a good way. So the message is, we have to find a good way to live. We have to find love, respect, a very good way to love. We have to respect the woman, we wait for respect. We have to give respect. Respect to other people.
B.E.: You probably saw in Africa that a lot of men and Africa have two, three, four wives.
A.M. : Ah! Yes, I learned that. Because they are Muslim people. That’s culture.
B.E.: It’s another story.
A.M.: It’s other story.
B.E.: Okay, we will stick with this story. Tell me about “Bisien Nu.”
A.M.: “Bisien Nu” is talking about love. I am coming from far far away to talk to your father about this love. It’s a lover song. It’s beautiful. It is very difficult because he wants to make love with this girl in a good way. This straight way. Maybe sometimes it happens the other way. Because we have something else. Because in this time we need something in a good way. I come to talk to the father about this love. Correct, no? It’s the correct way. You have to talk to the father. I love your son, your daughter. Get permission.
B.E.: That’s nice. It’s tradition.
A.M.: It’s Garifuna tradition. You have to talk to everybody. LAUGHS
B.E.: Okay. That’s the Garifuna way. That’s African. It’s like the way the griots do it. What about “Mayahuaba”?
A.M.: “Don’t Cry.” That’s talking about AIDS. Father and mom have died. So only the son is crying in the house. Somebody comes and says, “Why are you crying? Don’t cry.” And this boy says, “Why you say to me don’t cry? My father and mother have died. I am only myself in this life. Talk to me about AIDS. Talk to me about this problem. Because I don’t know nothing. Why my mom died? Why my father died? Talk to me about that.” Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Mayahuaba. Because we have a lot of AIDS in Central America, and around the world, and Africa. We have a lot of AIDS. This problem is here now, because nobody talks no more about AIDS. No, no, we have to keep in touch about that. Life Because we have to make decisions to save our lives. A lot of people talk in the Garifuna village, so we have to keep in touch about AIDS because it’s a problem living anywhere around the world. Everywhere.
B.E.: What about “Tio Sam”?
A.M.: Tio Sam? Talking about Bush. Uncle Sam.
B.E.: Ah, you wrote this before Obama.
A.M.: Yeah, I wrote the song before Obama. Because it’s about some history. We expected Obama would change this thing, because it’s very difficult. A lot of people are coming to United States because they don’t have nothing in their countries to do. They don’t have an opportunity to work, to find life. I understand that each country has to save its people. And because apartheid is finished in Africa, around the world everybody say, “We very happy. No more apartheid in Africa.” Because Bush created a war between Mexico and the United States. I don’t see good in this way. Because we don’t need no more wars between country and country. We don’t need no more war. So I’m talking about this war. I’m talking about how God created only one world for everybody. It’s humans who have separated. In different ways. We separate socially. We separate by racism, in different ways. We don’t need that. We are the same boys the same girls. The same people. We don’t need to separate. So I don’t like war in no way. We are human, a perfect creation. Perfect. We don’t need to separate. No more. No more.
B.E.: That’s a great vision. What about “Wamada”?
A.M.: “Wamada” I am calling this song Wamada, because I don’t want to call my real maternal religion inside this album, because out of respect… because the song is talking about maternal religion, Dügü
B.E.: Religion. Like Garifuna religion?
A.M.: Yes. Dügü. So we’re talking about a song from Dügü. It’s talking about how our ancestors have hamacas. It’s like a bed.
B.E.: A hammock?
A.M.: Yes. Hammock. So the ancestor has a hammock in heaven. The ancestor has a hammock in heaven. We’re talking about my ancestors, spirits. We call about them. This is a spiritual song. Because recalling the spirits, and dancing. So it’s a special song. Talking about the religion, the maternal religion of the Garifuna people. We have a lot of respect for this thing because. Wamada is my good friend. Wamada is a difficult friend. My friend is my spiritual thing.
B.E.: That’s beautiful. How about “Nuwaruguma”?
A.M.: My star. My soul. My soul. Nuwaruguma. This is talking about my soul. My star. The Garifuna people have a lot of things to say. This song talks about this spiritual side. Something good happens in your life, or something bad happens in your life, you call it your star. My soul. It is good, my soul. It is bad, my soul. If something happens, my soul is bad. Nuwaruguma is a special thing to say about what you feel. You feel good, my star is good. You feel bad, my star, my soul is not good. So this is talking about some problem that happens to somebody, and explaining that his soul is no good.
B.E.: So this is also a spiritual song.
B.E.: And the last song, “Ereba”?
A.M.: Ereba is a food. It’s like a tortilla. The song tells all the process to make ereba, what you have to do. I’m talking about the process, a special process.
B.E.: Is this a favorite food of the Garifuna? Like the Senegalese with their rice?
A.M.: Yes. It’s like a tortilla. Or like rice. It is important, important, important. So were talking the process here. SINGS
B.E.: So it’s a song and it’s a cooking lesson?
A.M.: Yeah.. LAUGHS
B.E.: So which is the other song that Orchestra Baobab sings on?
A.M.: Orchestra Baobab sings on “Laru Beya,” and “Bisien Nu,” the love song.
B.E.: Thanks, Aurelio. That was a great tour of the album. Why don’t you pick up your guitar now and play a bit for the radio audience.
A.M.: Okay. Sure.
And he did. You can hear the full 20-minute Aurelio segment of Afropop Worldwide’s program “Aurelio, Badian, Damily, and the Kid from Timbutktu,” as a podcast. It features two of the gorgeous solo songs he sang for us following this interview. Follow this link!