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Aurelio - Laru Beya

Encouraged by a songwriter mother with a gorgeous voice and by his widely admired local troubadour father, the young Aurelio made his own guitars from cans and fishing line. Music and songs were the only entertainment in a place with no electricity and little contact with the outside world, and it is these songs that shaped him as an artist and inspired the pieces on Laru Beya.

Aurelio's father was an expert in paranda music, a street-friendly, Latin-inflected style that chronicles everything from social ills to humorous tales to aching love, all in a highly improvisatory and soulful mode. Aurelio has retained this musical flexibility, and in the sessions that became Laru Beya, he revealed his tireless, playful love of making music on the fly - sometimes for hours at a time, lying in a hammock with his guitar, inventing songs late into the night.

At the heart of every song on Laru Beya beats a traditional Garifuna rhythm, and not just the most widely known popularized rhythms of punta ("Ereba") or paranda ("Ineweyu") familiar to fans of Central American music. Aurelio uses the rarely recorded rhythms such as the sacred ugulendu or the African-inflected abeimahani rhythm, usually connected with women's singing. To deepen the sad tale of migration to the U.S, "Tio Sam," for example, Aurelio concluded the song with part of a traditional female song set to the abeimahani beat, sung by a chorus of Garifuna women.

However, beyond the beauties of Garifuna tradition and Aurelio's striking interpretations lie the true guiding force behind the album: the loss of one of the Garifunas' most eloquent and musically talented spokespeople, Andy Palacio. Palacio, who passed away suddenly in 2008, can be credited with transforming the music of the Garifuna from local curiosity to global icon. He won regional popularity as the powerhouse behind punta rock, a Garifuna-rock synthesis that broke onto the Central American scene in the 1990s. International acclaim followed with an award-winning album in 2007 that truly put Garifuna music on the map.

A mere month after Andy's death, Aurelio, producer Ivan Duran, and the talented Garifuna musicians who joined them on Laru Beya headed for a small fishing village, where they set up a studio in a beachfront house. They were often joined by local singers and dancers, like the chorus of village women who stopped by to add their voices to the title track, "Laru Beya". Recording and living by the sea for several weeks, they were still in grief and shock, yet they knew they had to do something amazing to honor Palacio's life and work.

Aurelio was able to explore the Garifuna connection to Africa when Youssou N'Dour selected him as his protege in 2009. N'Dour encouraged Aurelio to channel his virtuosity, to balance his evanescent stage presence with reserve until just the right moment. N'Dour also contributed his unique vocal abilities to several songs on Laru Beya, including "Wamada."

Yet Aurelio, along with Duran, wanted to explore some of the other possibilities of the Dakar music scene. They went to clubs, where groups like Orchestra Baobab invited Aurelio up on stage and later joined him in the studio, learning a verse of Garifuna lyrics phonetically, a first for non-Garifuna musicians. They went to Dakar's poorest neighborhoods, finding rappers and singers in the medina whose Wolof lyrics lend urgency to Aurelio's critique of politicians, "Weibayuwa," along with several other tracks. These voices at the margins resonated perfectly with the once marginalized songs of the Garifuna.

 

Aurelio - Laru Beya 


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