Laru Beya, released on 18 January 2011, is Martínez's tribute to his friend and part of the fulfilment of his promise to keep Garifuna music alive.
Hailing from Plaplaya, a coastal hamlet on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Martínez was born into the local Garifuna community, descendants of a shipwrecked cargo vessel of West African slaves and of the Arawak and Carib people of St Vincent, the island where the slaves landed in 1635. After rebelling against British colonizers, the first Garifunas were deported and left for dead along the Caribbean coast of Central America, as 39-year-old Martinez recounts in “Yurumei”, a song from his new album.
As a child in Plaplaya, Martínez grew up in a home without electricity and television. Music was his main source of entertainment. Inspired by his mother’s magical voice and his father’s expertise in paranda, an improvisational style of story-telling in music, Martínez’s musicality developed quickly. He played a guitar made out of scrap wood and a fishing rod and, by the age of six, was drumming sacred Garifuna rhythms at major ceremonies.
Now a successful musician with an easy smile and an energetic spirit, Aurelio Martínez’s has a second album, Laru Beya, to his credit – a compilation of soulful songs that link back to his African roots.
The story of Laru Beya’s composition dates back to 2008. Shortly after Palacio’s death, Martínez received an unexpected invitation from Rolex to travel to Senegal to meet celebrated Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, who had agreed to be a mentor in the Rolex Arts Initiative. Martínez was one of three finalists – potential protégés – chosen by an international panel for the Arts Initiative. N’Dour soon chose Martínez as his protégé, an opportunity the young Garifuna singer had never thought possible. “When I was selected as a finalist in the Rolex Arts Initiative, I found out I had to go to Africa. That was my dream! It was also the dream of Andy Palacio.”
“Aurelio has talent,” N’Dour said later, but he needed to learn “to be himself, sure of himself, be proud of his music and ready to take on the world”.
With guidance from his mentor, in 2008 Martínez went with his producer, Ivan Duran, and other Garifuna musicians to a small fishing village in Belize to make music – but not just any music – Garifuna music that would honour Palacio’s life. Martínez spent weeks recording by the sea, drawing inspiration from Senegalese rhythms learned during his visit to his mentor and from traditional Garifuna refrains and songs his mother had written years ago. “At one point, I had to call her because I had forgotten some of the lyrics to one of her songs. She gave them to me, but only after yelling at me for not having invited her to sing along [on the recording],” he says with a smile. “Nuwaruguma”, the album’s second-last song – composed by his mother – tells the story of a star, chosen by a mother to watch over her son at night.
At the root of every song on Laru Beya lies a Garifuna rhythm, but, inspired by his mentor’s encouragement to try new arrangements while staying true to Garifuna sounds, Martínez makes the music his own, adding new instrumentation and featuring N’Dour’s unique voice in two tracks.
With the launch of his new album, a busy concert schedule and studio time in one of Manhattan’s foremost world-music studios (Music Works NYC), Martínez, now based in New York, seems ready to take on the challenges involved in becoming a world-class musician. “I‘m more sure of myself – more confident – and a lot of that is thanks to Youssou for believing in me and to my Rolex family for giving me this opportunity.”
The Independent newspaper in London says of Laru Beya: “By turns swaggering with a carefree carnivalesque joie de vivre, and seemingly channelling a Cape Verde spirit of melancholy that so evokes the disenfranchised human spirit, Laru Beya is a texturally and emotionally involving treasure.”
A popular British cultural website, theartsdesk.com, gave the disc an enthusiastic review: “This is one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year, at least in world music circles. And for impeccable reasons. It is brilliantly produced and joyously sung; it swings with a rare soulfulness and conveys a sense of the Garifuna community.”
can be purchased as a CD or MP3 download on major internet websites selling CDs. Click here
to watch a clip of Aurelio Martinez recording Laru Beya