Garifuna Soul: Aurelio Martinez
Aurelio Martinez, singer-songwriter, guitarist and percussionist, is a cultural warrior for the Garifuna people of the Caribbean Coast of Central America. He and his band find a warm, inviting, danceable space creating a sound influenced by the Garifuna’s West African and Amerindian ancestry. On stage, Aurelio’s passion for his culture is equally matched by his guitar solos and warm vocal delivery.
The original home of the Garifuna is in St. Vincent, which is one of the windward islands in the West Indies, where a distinct culture developed that combined West African and Amerindian influences. The Garifunas were deported in 1796 by the British government from St. Vincent and sought refuge on Roatan island, situated in the Bay Islands of Honduras. They later dispersed along the Central American coast, but held on to a their language (Garifuna), and their own music and culture.
Aurelio grew up in a small Caribbean village called Plaplaya, surrounded by a family of talented musicians. His father was a well-known local troubadour who improvised songs containing Garifuna roots rhythms and Latin sounds. Following in his uncles and grandfather’s footsteps, he became a brilliant drummer in his early childhood. From his vocally gifted mother, he learned to sing and picked up many songs she crafted. He began performing at Garifuna ceremonies when he was just a boy, even at the most sacred events where children were usually not allowed. At the age of 14, the young man became a respected musician with a firm grounding in Garifuna rhythms, rituals, and songs. In 2006, Aurelio, still building his musical career, became the first Garifuna congressman from his region in Honduras’ history. For this occasion, the politician’s main goal was to represent and support the Garifuna people to protect their integrity as a whole.
In January 2017, Aurelio will release his new album DARANDI, a collection of Aurelio’s favorite songs throughout his career, recorded to capture the sound of his incendiary live performances accompanied by some of the Garifuna’s brightest musical talents.
Today, Aurelio divides his time between New York and Honduras, where he is the cultural anchor to Garifuna communities in both places. As he says, “We’re not going to let this culture die. I know I must continue my ancestors’ legacy and find new ways to express it. Few people know about it, but I adore it, and it’s something I must share with the world.”
8pm | $20, $17 mbrs | + $3 at the door. 6pm Panel discussion, "What Does it Mean to be Black?" w/ Aurelio | FREE