October 2007

Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective - Watina
Cumbancha Records CMB-CD-3
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

As a young Garifuna man, Andy Palacio recognized early on that the rich cultural heritage of his people was staring into the maw of impending extinction. Indigenous to those countries on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Garifuna blends elements of West African and native Caribbean heritage. Palacio is himself from Belize, but his cohort of musicians, the Garifuna Collective, hail from across Central America. They perform together with one goal in mind: the preservation of their kindred identity.

Palacio's latest album, Watina, meaning "I called out," was recorded entirely in the native language and embraces the traditional styles of music and songwriting of the Garifuna. Most of the songs employ a formula of short, simple lyrics and a single, layered rhythm. Inspired by a blend of Latin, African and Carib styles, the album is both contemporary in the world-music context and traditional in an anthropological respect. Allow yourself to be taken away with the sounds: Swirling and sultry, sexily hot like the Caribbean sun, yet refreshingly cool like swimming beneath a rainforest waterfall, the music transports you to Belize and makes you a welcome guest in Palacio's world.

You can sense the urgency in these songs, some of which are hauntingly sad, but these musicians have much to celebrate as well. They sing out, joyous and proud, on many tracks backed by a festive choir and aided by pulsing African and Latin rhythms. Regardless of the subject, all of the songs on Watina are representative of day-to-day Garifuna life and paint the image beautifully complete. Under the direction of Ivan Duran, the production is of the highest quality and meticulously perfected while at the same time maintaining the essence of Garifuna music.

Palacio can be crowned the new ambassador of Garifuna, sharing and spreading the cultural wealth of his people to the benefit of us all.