Garifuna music is West Africa translated through the culture of Central American coastlines, but Senegal is still a long way from Honduras, and I didn’t expect to hear Youssou N’Dour duetting on the first track of Aurelio’s new album, Laru Beya. “N’Dour,” explains the album booklet, “selected [Aurelio Martinez] as his protégé in 2008, as part of the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts initiative.” That clarifies the presence of singers from Orchestra Baobab, rappers from Dakar and the slippery trickle of a kora in the background at the same aural level as the oot-hoo of a conch shell. Women from the Umalali compilation reappear—Sofia Blanco present of course—and so do musicians from Andy Palacio’s Wátina. Those have been the two groundbreaking Garifuna albums of the new century, groundbreaking not only musically and in the density of their production values, but also because they had a noteworthy amount of exposure outside the Belize-Honduras axis where that music usually lingers. Listeners will probably compare Laru Beya to Wátina—the croon and swing of punta and parada are back—but the Senegalese connection helps make this album into something on its own terms, more layered, a little less raw.
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