Aurelio Martínez is regarded as a leading exponent of Garifuna music – created by the descendants of escaped African slaves and the indigenous people living along the Caribbean coasts of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. His latest album has been hailed as a major work by critics in Europe and the Americas.
Rolex Arts Initiative: Your last album, Lándini, has received very good reviews since its release in September 2014. The magazine Roots, specializing in world music, named it album of the year. How much time did it take to compose the music for Lándini and to record the songs?
Aurelio Martínez:I’m really happy with the response from the media and the public following the reléase of this music. With regard to the compositions, I can’t say exactly how long it took because some of them were composed at different times and some are traditional songs. My mother’s and my compositions are more spontaneous because they relate to our life and other things that happen around us or in our Garifuna communities. We could say that the entire production developed over the course of a year and a half.
You have said that you consider that this album in particular represents the “sound of your Garifuna town”. How would you describe Garifuna music?
I describe Garifuna music as a music with identity and a lot of soul. It reflects the emotions of a particular town in all ways. The Lándini album reflects the ambiance and spirit of Plaplaya, which is the town where I was born, as well as childhood experienced through my mother.
Garifuna music seems very spontaneous and creative, more fluid than other traditions. Would you agree?
Other similar cultures may exist. What I know is that the spirit of Garifuna music represents the freedom for which our ancestors fought. If it’s correctly done, it’s spontaneous and creative.
It seems like your mother has had a huge influence on this new album. She even wrote some of the songs? Was she in fact your mentor, well before Youssou n’Dour?
The mentoring experience with Youssou n’Dour greatly influenced my ability and ambition to share Garifuna music with the world. My mother has been my mentor since I have had the ability to reason, and in respect to Garifuna music, she is a composer and singer.
During your public performances, do you sing the songs exactly as they are recorded or is each interpretation different?
These songs are so simple in their arrangements that it’s possible to perform them exactly as they were recorded, but I am usually surprised during each show.
How many concerts did you give in 2014 and in which countries?
I gave about 30 concerts -- in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark and Spain. I especially love seeing other cultures enjoy Garifuna music.
A music critic, in his analysis of Lándini, described you as an “emerging superstar in world music”. You have come far very quickly. To what do you attribute your success?
I’m celebrating the 30th anniversary of the start of my career. I believe that my success is due to the love I have for what I do, combined with discipline and perseverence.