Interview: Aurelio (January 2017)

Perched high in Garifuna music’s history is Aurelio Martinez, a songbird of vibrant, metisse, colours. Garifuna music, being that of the Garifuna, a people descending from the meeting of Arawak and African slaves brought to the New World in revolting times, and who spread across Latin America and the Caribbean, is first and foremost an invitation to meet, sing, and, oh yes, dance around sense and sensibility, the respect of Garifuna living. Such things, well layered, are at what Aurelio excels.

To leading Brazilian anthropologist Edouardo Vivieros de Castro, the Amerindian perspective, the Arawak element to Garifuna culture, for example, was one built around a belief that our world was a society of legitimate societies, of plants, of specific animals, of human beings, etc. Wielding a guitar, the once-Honduran Congressman is the very best musician at building on the Garifuna’s promise to be themselves, all the while belonging to the world at large.

Martinez comes back to us with more pop-folk, both ambient and acoustic, wherein he put his singing voice to use, not only to gather his own but others, around a vision of our world, through a new album Darandi. With this new release, easy rhythm and fast pace, once more, coexist confidently. We spoke to the very Garifuna player in the world about music, his music, and Darandi.

Aurelio, I’d like to start out by saying that I am very impressed by your music.

Darandi is the result of a 30-year music journey. What have you learnt from your music career throughout this period? How has your music changed?

I have learnt that music has the power to carry the message of my people to the world and that it transcends beyond just entertainment. I started with traditional Garifuna music and chords (usually only 3 chords) after travelling and sharing with artists around the world. Today, I not only see Garifuna music in my music: my music now has many elements of other styles, even though the essence continues to be Garifuna.

Darandi can be considered as a Garifuna music manifesto. How much and in which way has music helped to affirm Garifuna cultural identity?

Music is the most lively aspect of Garifuna culture because it captures our sentiments, preserves the language and reflects our spirituality.

Your music aims to produce everyday feeling in a listener that is the very opposite of that work culture venerated in capitalist today. What sort of living are you attempting to inspire in your listener with Darandi?

My people have a long history of resistance that goes back to the days of slavery and our homeland of St. Vincent. My music is an expression of freedom and hope. Garifuna music wants to transmit a message of peace and community.

What’s the idea behind Darandi, and how did you choose the songs on the album?

The idea of Darandi was to bring together my 30 years of experience in sharing Garifuna music with the world and my “on stage” spirit. The songs are the ones that I have played the most live and the ones that resonate the most.

How did you go about composing Darandi’s instrumentation?

I always try to work with the right musicians. We know each other very well and for us making music is like talking.

Musicians have traditionally played music to go along with festivities: weddings, etc… Is Darandi festivity music, and which festivities do you aim to influence specifically?

This is not music for a particular festivity: this music celebrates life as a whole! Most of the songs in the album are paranda and that style of music is usually played when sharing with friends, family and community.

What should people expect from your forthcoming live shows?

People should except to be moved both by dancing, but also at an emotional level…

How would you introduce yourself to someone who has never heard your music?

My name is Aurelio Martinez. My people see me as their international ambassador and, for me, that is the greatest honour.

Come and join us and hear Aurelio play at Rich Mix on the 1st of Feb 2017. Click here for tickets