Well, obviously we’re not going to be giving away tickets to these. Afropop readers and listeners in New York have not one but two chances to see the singer-guitarist Aurelio Martinez this month and both concerts are free! On Sat., Oct. 3, Aurelio plays at “First Saturday” at the Brooklyn Museum, and on Thurs. Oct. 15, at Lincoln Center.
Born in Plaplaya, Honduras, Aurelio plays paranda music. The guitar-based genre comes from the Garifuna people, who trace their origins to enslaved Africans shipwrecked on the island of St. Vincent, and who were then deported to the Central American coast in the late 18th century. The Garifuna now live in Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Aurelio is a tireless advocate for the Garifuna: promoting their unique Afro-Caribbean musical traditions, and also through politics, as the first black member of the Honduran National Congress. He’s so eager to promote his marginalized people, he’ll even sit down with little outlets like Afropop Worldwide as he did in 2011. He proudly describes learning music from his mother, also a songwriter, and immersing himself in paranda at the end of each day, when the villagers would gather to sing after docking their boats for the night.
The music he makes is really approachable and, dare I say, even cosmopolitan. Aurelio has an incredible and distinct voice, and his music is suffused with bounding rhythm and tasteful guitar work. A self-professed fan of reggae and Cuban trova, his music wouldn’t sound out of place throughout much of the Caribbean. As Afropop’s Banning Eyre noted in an NPR review of Aurelio’s 2014 album, Landini, many of the melodies and rhythms recall Colombian cumbia. Of course the Garifuna culture which forms the beating heart of Aurelio’s music is not only a mix of West African and indigenous Caribbean influences, it has absorbed French, English and Spanish terms and customs as well. It’s no wonder, then, that Aurelio finds himself a giant on the world music circuit. The amazing thing is that you can see an artist of his caliber playing for free.