The Garifuna story began when the cultural topography of the Caribs of St Vincent collided with that of the West Africans sometime after 1675. Through the hundreds of years since the Diaspora has spread to Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize, where The Garifuna Collective are based, the vibrant music has grown thanks in a large part through the efforts of musician, composer, politician and activist, the late Andy Palacio. His legacy – and that of the Garifuna Collective, which he founded – has, fortuitously, been carried on by musician and producer Ivan Duran, who has played on and produced this superb recording, Aban.
The album is like an elegant railway system linking Afro-Caribbean, Garinagu – traditional rhythms such as Wanaragua and the partially-sacred Hüngühüngün – juxtaposing them with African hi-life and Afro-pop sounds, and contemporary melodies that spring from deep within Garifuna song. But to describe it as such might give the impression of overcooking when in reality the whole project is a masterpiece of subtlety.
The music wells up from the Garifuna’s take on life. The tawny, ululations evoke a kind of sashaying rhythm that comes from the dusty shuffle and the hip-swishing of Garifuna’s walking and dancing gait itself. The harmonies that weave these melodies together float dreamily over the joyful thunder of the Garifuna drums and the rumbling bass and each element add a rich and not at all predictable foundation to the music.
The surprises, when they come, are effective but discreet: an ostinato played as pizzicato harmonics followed by a delicate curlicue of a bass line that underpins an elemental lament on “Lügua”; or on “Magidu” where African “hi-life” rhythms collide with the guitarist’s rock-style harmonies combined with the broodingly percussive tumbling groove all mix in with a worldly-wise, funky and jazzy groove. Aban is a short, simple yet highly imaginative musical experience reflective of a beguiling and beckoning culture.
Track list – 1: Lügua (Lost); 2: Wiya (Waist); 3: Hamala (Let Him Fly); 4: Uraga (Story); 5: Ideruni (Help); 6: Uganu (News); 7: Magidu (The Market); 8: Chatuye
Personnel – The Garifuna Collective is – Marcela Aranda: vocals; Desiree Diego: vocals and maracas; Mohobub Flores: vocals and turtle shells; Sheldon Petillo: vocals; Emilio Thomas: vocals; Rolando “Chichiman” Sosa: vocals and percussion; Denmark Flores: Garifuna drums; Sam Harris: electric guitar and vocals; Guayo Cedeño: electric guitar; Eli Levinson: sampling and programming; Iván Durán: electric and acoustic guitars, bass; Al Ovando: electric guitar, bass, percussion and hand claps
Released – 2019
Label – Stonetree Records
Runtime – 27:43