Aurelio, Laru Beya

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 01.14.11 in Reviews

There are moments on this disc, such as on the opening cut "Lubara Wanwa," where Aurelio comes across as Manu Chao's laid-back cousin from Honduras. Instead of the Frenchman's ska on speed, Aurelio prefers a slow, lazy Caribbean skank. It's dripping with sunshine, but it's just one weapon in his musical arsenal. His songs draw on several local traditions of his people, the Garifuna descendants of slaves shipwrecked on the Central American coast. This is a man who remembers exactly where he came from.

Remembering exactly where he came from

But Aurelio is also a man with the heavy weight of expectations on his shoulders. Mentored by the late Andy Palacio, the first Garifuna star, and by the Senegalese colossus Youssou N'Dour, he's now the musical face of the Garifuna. He carries it well, and on this album he builds on Palacio's legacy, drawing nourishment and energy from a unique tradition (much as Palacio did), using it as inspiration to create something that's thoroughly contemporary. "Ineweyu," for instance, brings R&B electricity to paranda, the best-known of the Garifuna styles, while "Ereba" is pure percolating punta rock, the drums brilliantly crisp as a background powerhouse, horns entering to turn the track into a genuine party anthem that's a jubilant celebration of heritage. And when N'Dour's immediately recognisable griot wail steps in on "Wamada," the music connects all the way back to West Africa, with a resonance as deep as the Atlantic. It's a bravura album, a showcase for Aurelio's impressive and passionate voice and writing ability. He's been well taught, and he's definitely ripe for fame.