Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go Carry Him Back Home

For those of us who have been close to the work and music of Andy Palacio, heading down to Barranco, the small Garifuna village where he was raised, felt like a homecoming. In reality, it was nothing short of an invasion. We descended on Barranco, a village of some 200 inhabitants, not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. The scene reminded me of stories of the grand Belizean independence celebrations as they were held decades ago through the streets of Belize City. Except that the flags flying were the yellow, white, and black flags of the Garifuna nation (yellow for hope and riches, white for peace, and black for the ancestry of the people.)

The flood of emotion and praise that we experienced at the service continued when the chapel doors opened and we continued down Barranco's red dirt road in the pouring rain to see Andy laid to rest.

Like several mourners who I spoke with who didn't even know Andy personally, I was drawn to pay my respects because of who Andy was as a person, and what he fundamentally believed in. It was not only what Andy represented to us, or that Andy represented us. More than that, he exposed us to the world at our largest and yet most intimate selves. To me, Andy's greatest strength as a human being and as an artist was his vision, which was so personal to him, and yet so much larger than him. Without seeming to ever preach or teach, Andy made converts out of ordinary non-believers, making us feel that we could grasp something greater too, making us know that our own stories and songs were an act of pure resistance. His vision was about being true yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of your own dirt-road, bakabush surroundings, and speaking your own name loudly wherever life's road might take you.

When we listen to the lyrics of this message through the barriers of our own shame or language or culture, we are transported outside of ourselves to a place where we can see ourselves, and therefore finally see each-other. Mourning his loss, we remain as desperate for this message as Andy's 13-year-old son, singing Ameuyengu, first shy then bolder, with a deepening voice as he smiled across the chapel at his sister.

Andy, somewhere in my heart, I can't help feeling the weight of fate in the uncanny timing of your final achievements. In an interview last August, I asked you what the most memorable reactions to the "Watina" album had been so far. You mentioned two: Michael Polonio, your cousin and President of the National Garifuna Council, and the renowned Belizean Garifuna anthropologist Joseph Palacio, who both told you that your work was done and that "you could now go in peace."

We could not have known that your ancestors would agree. We could not have known that these words would prove to be literally true. After all, you and your god knew your own time better than any one of us.


A Tribute for Andy Palacio
by Irma McClaurin
An African diaspora treasure dies
By Irma McClaurin
Updated 1/28/2008 6:23:52 PM

"...Down Albert Street, the main thoroughfare in Belize City, the 'punta' sounds of Andy Palacio and Chico Ramos can be heard rocking the streets." (Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America, p. 34).

I remember vividly finally mastering the undulating hip and shuffling feet movements that are the trade mark of punta, a dance form in Belize, Central America popularized by Andy Palacio, a local artist.

On Saturday, January 19, 2008, at the very young age of 47, Andy Palacio, a Belizean national treasure, died. His was an influence that resonated across many different borders inside Belize, and touched the hearts and souls of African-descended people throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. Andy, and his people represent the spirit of resistance, creativity and innovation that we know is part of the character of the African Diaspora. The origins of the Garifuna people are complicated, and filled with many serendipitous events, resistance, will power, and genius.

As the story goes, West African slaves believed to come from "the Yoruba, Ibo and Ashanti tribes" were shipwrecked off the coast of the Island of St. Vincent. They came ashore and were protected by the indigenous population of Island Caribs with whom they formed strong alliances. The Island Caribs were an amalgamation of Carib and Arawak Indians that occurred sometimes through warfare, with Arawak women often taken as war prizes. As a result, the Arawak-Carib women spoke a different language than men. This women's language pattern survives into the present. The intermixing and intermarriage of the maroon (escaped) Africans and the Island Caribs resulted in a new people –the Garifuna-- whose language drew upon its African roots mixed with Carib and Arawak. Sometimes called Karaphuna, according to one source, " 'Gari' is African for food," and "Garifuna roughly translates into 'cassava-eating people.'"

Anthropologists labeled this newest group "black Carib" as a way of distinguishing them from the original indigenous populations of St. Vincent. This distinction would later have dire consequences. Over time, the Garifuna adopted the term Garinagu to describe themselves as a group, and Garifuna to refer to their language and culture.

While the Red, Yellow, and Black Carib co-existed peacefully with the French, they were in constant battle with British forces, especially after the signing of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that gave the British control of the island. The French allied themselves with the Caribs, and in 1795, despite a previous treaty, a major final battle over land occurred. The French surrendered one year later, but the Garinagu continued for another year. Despite their surrender, the British decided to exile the survivors. According to anthropologist, Mark Anderson, the British "seized upon the blackness of the Garifuna to question their [ethnic] purity and legitimacy and to justify their expulsion."

In1772, the British, distinguishing the Red and Yellow Caribs from those who appeared Black to them, separating families and loved ones, placed 4,338 people on a boat to the Roatan, one of islands off the coast of the Honduras. Only 2,026 people survived the journey. As I've written elsewhere, they "... were able to do so because of the cassava plant that they were able to hide among their clothes, keeping it moist through the sweat of their own bodies." The importance of cassava bread continues among Garinagua today.

Only a small group stayed to found what would become Punta Gorda, the oldest Garinagu town; the majority moved on, establishing themselves along the coast of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and much later Belize. It is this latter group who in 1832 arrived in Belize (formerly the British Honduras, and the only country in all of Central and South America where English is the national language) and took up residence in the district known as Stann Creek, but now called Dangriga, to which the late Palacio traces his cultural and historical roots.

What the Garifuna carried with them, as they formed a diaspora scattered throughout Central America (Spanish Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, formerly the British Honduras), was a rich cultural tradition of music, foodways (especially their survival food-- cassava bread), and dugu (or ancestor worship), which they mingled successfully with their beliefs in the Anglican church. And, of course, music.

Belize mourns the loss of Palacio. He was only 47-years-old; those who had the good fortunate to meet him would attest to his modesty and humility despite the popularity of his music. And most of us remember his passion for preserving Garinagu culture and music.

In a January 21, 2008, interview for "All things Considered" on Minnesota Public Radio, Said Musa, former Prime Minister, and now president of the National Institute of History and Culture, called Andy "a cultural activist."

Indeed he was that and much because of his unwavering commitment to preserve the Garinagu history, language and culture. But Palacio was much more. For those of us in the African Diaspora in the United States who may never travel beyond the boundaries of our neighborhoods or regional and national borders, Andy's music was a window into our dynamic African Diaspora past, present and future. He proved through his music how resilient African culture could be and how relevant it still is to contemporary culture.

Andy's work and his music will serve as an inspiration for us to think about ourselves as an African Diaspora people who have given the world tremendous cultural riches. He will always be a Belizean national treasure. But he is also an African Diaspora treasure. He joins the ranks of some of our own Black American departed greats: Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Luther Vandross, and James Brown, to name a few.

We shall miss you Andy, even as the sounds of punta rock on.

Irma McClaurin is the author of Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America. As an anthropologist, she has conducted research in Belize since 1991. She joined the University of Minnesota in December as the new Associate VP for System Academic Administration and Executive Director of the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center in North Minneapolis. The opinions expressed here are entirely her own.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Collected Tributes to Andy

A replay of Melissa Block's interview is available now on NPR,

Other Tributes Received Today

Hi Everyone,

My words are inadequate to express my feelings about the shocking
loss of Andy Palacio. He meant a lot to me, and I know he meant much
more to the international Garifuna community. But this is what I can

Please, let's do what we can to forward his mission.


Remembering Andy Palacio

[Something] Andy told me about his experience in Nicaragua has made his untimely passing so much more painful. Andy gave a little laugh when he thought about how when he was younger, he didn’t mind dying for a cause like for the Nicaraguan struggle, and how foolish that thought is to a more mature person. Of
course, he said, it’s making the most out of one’s life that truly
That Andy’s life was cut so tragically short just when his music and
his message had begun to reach a long-deserved worldwide audience is
still unfathonable...But even though 2007 became Andy’s banner year, it
was also the result of a life’s hard work...
As I traveled throughout Belize, it was clear how much Andy’s work
meant to that small country, especially its Garifuna minority. He was
particularly fortunate to have a kindred spirit in Ivan who not only
shared his artistic vision, but had the know how to translate it all
to the finished recorded product. A number of Garifuna advocates,
like the Cayetano family, who helped show how deep the social and
political ramifications of Andy’s music and message ran, especially
in such villages as Barranco, Hopkins and Dangriga.
I couldn’t have been more pleased that much of the conclusions I
reached in my 2003 thesis had become obsolete by 2007. While Andy’s
quotes about preparing for Watina, made me optimistic when I wrote
them down, it’s obviously much better to see what happens when the
best of those hopes are exceeded. By the time Andy was touring the
world and accepting awards on the heels of Watina, Nyasha Laing was
preparing a documentary film on Garifuna culture from her base in New
York and in Chicago Emery Joe Yost had been working on an informative
instructional DVD on Garifuna drumming. And in Belize, Ivan Duran had
put the finishing touches on a disc documenting Garifuna women
singers. Meanwhile, other international Garifuna artists like Aurelio
Martinez from Honduras and Rhodel Castillo (a Belizean Chicagoan)
began ascending to larger stages.
Last summer, Andy performed at Chicago’s Millennium Park. I spoke
with him for a while before his set and he seemed understandably
tired, as he had been in the midst of that exhaustive tour. And it
soon became apparent that he had been storing up his energy for his
terrific performance. Not only did the musical rapport soar among the
collective’s guitarists and percussionists, but Andy’s exchanges with
Paul Nabor charmed the hundreds in the park. Afterwards, Andy was
clearly elated at the reception, and so was the concert’s organizer,
Michael Orlove. When I spoke to briefly to Michael and Andy, Michael
said to Andy, “Aaron’s our white Garifuna.” Andy laughed and told me
that there’s a secret initiation process. To which I laughed, and
said, “Oh, no, you guys aren’t gonna break out the paddles are you?”
We were all smiles then, but I can’t help but wonder what I should
have said if I had any idea that would be the last words I’d say to
him. Still, the last image I have of Andy is of him beaming in the
post-performance afterglow.
As I heard about Andy’s sudden demise I tried to sum up his
importance to a colleague of mine who hadn’t heard his music. I said
something along the lines of, “Andy was as important to his people as
Bob Marley was to Jamaica.” It was an inadequate, inaccurate
statement. To be sure, Marley influence was profound, especially on
musicians like Andy. But Andy had a more difficult role, as he did
took on more duties than what could ordinarily be expected of a
musician. He was also an active preservationist, government official,
devoted teacher and, of course, a tireless interviewee. At all times,
he knew that wherever he went, he took with him, in person or in
spirit, a multitude that knew they were no longer on anyone’s
margins. As he wrote in the song “Amunegu” on Watina:

Ageindaguatian wayunagu lun habagaridun kei Garinagu
Wagia me san aferidirei wagaburi, madugawamei

It means:
Our ancestors fought to remain Garifuna
Why must we be the ones to lose our culture?
Let’s not do it

In the 21st century, the Garifuna couldn’t have asked for a better
champion than Andy Palacio.

Aaron Cohen
Associate Editor, DownBeat


From: Ivan Duran [mailto:ivan@stonetreerecords.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:19 AM
To: Info


I received this email today allowing us to announce that Andy is the winner of the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in the Americas category.

Andy and I received news in December that he had won the award but we were asked to keep it strictly confidential until the award ceremony in April, Andy was scheduled to perform at the ceremony in London after receiving his award. I remember Andy being extremely happy the day we got the news and I know it was hard for him not to be able to share the news with his friends and fans in Belize.

Thank you to the BBC Radio 3 media partners for letting us break the news of this great honor for Belize in time for his tribute on Friday January 25th.

With respect,

Ivan Duran
Stonetree Records / ivan@stonetreerecords.com
cell: 6105152

Dear Ivan

The partners in the BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music have decided that it would be appropriate to release the information that Andy is the winner in the Americas category of the 2008 Awards, so that you may if you wish make this known locally and at his funeral. Normally this would not have been announced until April 10th along with all the other winners, but we all felt that these were truly exceptional circumstances that merited breaking the BBC embargo in this isolated case

I've attached a copy of the announcement which is going out now, and copied the text below (the main Doc also includes verbatim the text of your own official release).

Andy Palacio wins prestigious BBC Award

The tragic death on Saturday 19th January of Andy Palacio, the much-loved Garifuna musician from Belize, has made it appropriate to reveal that he is the winner of the Americas category in the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music.

Although decided by the jury in December, the official announcement of all the winners is not due to be made by the BBC until 10th April. However in these exceptional circumstances, the news of this should be released now so that a full measure of his achievements and the regard in which he was held by the world music community can be recorded along with the many other tributes now being made to him. When this is heard at his State funeral in Belize on Friday, his people will know that this Garifuna musician, with his marginalised indigenous culture, had been chosen as the best artist of all the Americas.

BBC Radio 3 presenter Lucy Duran, who is to broadcast a tribute to Andy Palacio this coming Saturday, has commented: "The news of Andy Palacio's untimely death has been an absolute shock. It seems impossible that Andy has gone. He was young, healthy, dynamic, at his prime. And such a loss to so many people around the world, at the very moment when he was truly set to become an international star - with the incredible success of the album Wátina - such a loss to his own people, the Garifuna, for whom he was such an articulate and charismatic spokesman. Such a personal loss to Ivan Duran - fellow Belizean musician and music producer, who worked tirelessly for so many years with Andy on making Garifuna music better known, culminating in Wátina, which has an anthemic quality to it and has been for many in the world music industry the best album of 2007. This is quite simply heartbreaking news."

Many of us in the world music community were moved by Andy Palacio's acceptance speech on receiving the 2007 Womex Award, in which he stated: "I see this award not so much as a personal endorsement but in fact as an extraordinary and sincere validation of a concept in which artists such as myself take up the challenge to make music with a higher purpose that goes beyond simple entertainment. I accept this award on behalf of my fellow artists from all over the world with the hope that it will serve to reinforce those sentiments that fuel cultures of resistance and pride in one's own."

We are proud to make this announcement that Andy Palacio has won the Americas Award in the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, though can only wish that it were made in very different circumstances.

fRoots magazine, Songlines magazine, Rough Guide To World Music, Womex

-- Ian Anderson
Editor: fRoots Magazine


the candle is out
the light remains

chekist1917 (1 day ago)
rest in peace Andy

jackeline24 (2 days ago)
No se fue esta con nosotros, Centroamerica lo llora, pero sigue aquí en su casa, en el mar, en las palmeras, su vos vibra en el tambor garifuna, una guitarra en medio de nuestro cálido Caribe! que viva mi CENTROAMERICA que DIOS te tenga en su gloria ANDY.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Andy Rests With the Ancestors


With a heavy heart, I wanted share this news of the passing of Andy Palacio, a brilliant songwriter, articulate advocate, and performer who touched hundreds of thousands of lives around the world during his lifetime. As Andy told me in Vermont last August, the Garifuna elders have spoken their verdict that Andy had already accomplished his work and mission on this earth.

This morning, I am setting to work assembling images as testimony to an amazing journey with Andy and the Garifuna Collective last year. But no images or words can express the private loss felt by so many at this time. We will miss his wry sense of humor, his relentless faith, his insight into the human spirit, and his ability to inspire us all. My prayers to Andy's loved ones.


Dear all:

We are heartbroken to report that Andy Palacio passed away tonight at 9pm Belize time. The cause of death was a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions. After having been waylaid in Mobile, Alabama while en route to emergency care in Chicago, Andy had been brought back to a hospital in Belize last night so that he could die in his homeland.

Words can’t express the sorrow we feel at the loss of such a tremendous person and artist.

A more formal press release is copied below. Please pass this information on to the countless people around the world who have been impacted by Andy’s music and message. Feel free to post this announcement to your email lists or blogs, as we want to make sure that everyone who knows Andy or his music are aware of what has happened.

We are together at the Cumbancha office in Vermont. Ivan will be heading to Belize as soon as possible to attend the funeral ceremonies and the tribute concert that is planned for this coming Friday.

In the Garifuna culture the death of a loved one is an opportunity to celebrate their memory and rejoice in having been blessed to have had them in your life. We feel so fortunate to have known this incredible individual and we mourn the loss of truly great man.

In an interview conducted last July, Andy was asked how he wanted to be remembered when he died. He replied, "As a proud Garifuna...someone who instills pride in Garifuna and raises their
self-esteem. To me, that's the most important thing." This was already the case while he was alive, and we’re certain it will only be more true in the future.


Ivan Duran and Jacob Edgar

DECEMBER 2, 1960 – JANUARY 19, 2008



Belizean Musician Andy Palacio Passes Away After Heart Attack and Stroke

January 19, 2008 - Andy Palacio, an iconic musician and cultural activist in his native Belize and impassioned spokesperson for the Garifuna people of Central America, was declared dead tonight at 9pm Belize time due to a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions.

Palacio, 47, started feeling poorly last week and eventually visited a doctor with complaints of dizziness and blurred vision. On the 16th of January, he began experiencing seizures and was rushed to a hospital in Belmopan, Belize and then on to another hospital in Belize City. At this point, most people were hopeful Palacio would recover.

On January 17th, Palacio’s condition worsened and he began experiencing more seizures. He was placed on an air ambulance to Chicago where he was expected to get treatment at one of the premier neurological facilities in the country. En route to Chicago, the plane stopped in Mobile, Alabama to clear immigration. At that point, Palacio was unconscious and it was determined that he was too ill to continue on the flight to Chicago. He was rushed to a hospital in Mobile, and placed on life support. There, doctors determined that the damage to his brain function was severe, and that his chances of recovery were slim. On January 18th, his family requested that he be flown back to Belize so that he might die in his homeland.

A national hero in Belize for his popular music and advocacy of Garifuna language and culture, news of Palacio’s condition sent shockwaves through the community. At 5pm today, a public service was held in Belize City for Palacio as people prayed for his recovery. Ceremonies were also held by Garifuna spiritual leaders in an effort to help with the situation. Belize is in the midst of a heated election, but the local news was entirely dominated by Palacio’s health crisis.

The reaction has also been strong around the world. Until the recent turn of events, the past year had been one of tremendous accomplishment for Palacio as his album Wátina, which was released at the beginning of 2007, had become one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre. Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of Best of the Year lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms.

In 2007, Palacio was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and won the prestigious WOMEX Award. Wátina was also nominated for the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio’s example. Even in the days since Palacio’s health crisis began, the accolades have continued to pour in for his work.

That Palacio has been struck down at a moment of such international acclaim only increases the sense of shock and tragedy felt at his sudden and untimely death.

Andy Palacio will be honored with an official state funeral. A massive tribute concert is planned in Belize City on Friday, January 25th.

Friends and supporters are invited to post messages in memory of Andy Palacio to his MySpace page (www.myspace.com/andypalacio) as well as to the blog of his international record label Cumbancha (http://cumbanchamusic.blogspot.com/).



Andy Palacio was not only the most popular musician in Belize, he was also a serious music and cultural activist with a deep commitment to preserving his unique Garifuna culture. Long a leading proponent of Garifuna popular music and a tireless advocate for the maintenance of the Garifuna language and traditions, Palacio recently achieved international acclaim for his work as a recording and performing artist thanks to the critical success of his early 2007 album Wåtina.

Andy Vivien Palacio was born in the small coastal village of Barranco, Belize on December 2, 1960. Palacio grew up listening to traditional Garifuna music as well as imported sounds coming over the radio from neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, the Caribbean and the United States. “Music was always a part of daily life,” said Palacio, “It was the soundtrack that we lived to.” Along with some of his peers, he joined local bands even while in high school and began developing his own voice, performing covers of popular Caribbean and Top 40 songs.

However, it was while working with a literacy project on Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast in 1980 and discovering that the Garifuna language and culture was steadily dying in that country, that a strong cultural awareness took hold and his approach to music became more defined. “I saw what had happened to my people in Nicaragua. The cultural erosion I saw there deeply affected my outlook,” he said in late 2006, “and I definitely had to react to that reality.” His reaction took the form of diving deeper into the language and rhythms of the Garifuna, a unique cultural blend of West African and Indigenous Carib and Arawak Indian language and heritage. “It was a conscious strategy. I felt that music was an excellent medium to preserve the culture. I saw it as a way of maintaining cultural pride and self esteem, especially in young people.”

Palacio became a leading figure in a growing renaissance of young Garifuna intellectuals who were writing poetry and songs in their native language. He saw the emergence of an upbeat, popular dance form based on Garifuna rhythms that became known as punta rock and enthusiastically took part in developing the form. Andy began performing his own songs and gained stature as a musician and energetic Garifuna artist. In 1987, he was able to hone his skills after being invited to work in England with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community arts organization. Returning home to Belize with new skills and a four track recording system, he helped found Sunrise, an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and distributing Belizean music. While his academic background and self-scholarship allowed for his on-going documentation of Garifuna culture through lyrics and music, it is his exuberance as a performer that has helped earn him worldwide recognition.

Palacio also brought his passion for Garifuna culture into the public sector. In December 2004, Palacio was appointed Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History of Belize.

About five years ago, Belizean producer Ivan Duran, Palacio’s longtime collaborator and founder of the local label Stonetree Records, convinced Palacio that he should focus on less commercial forms of Garifuna music and look more deeply into its soul and roots. Duran and Palacio set out to create an all-star, multi-generational ensemble of some of the best Garifuna musicians from Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The Garifuna Collective unites elder statesmen such as legendary Garifuna composer Paul Nabor, with up-and-coming voices of the new generation such as Aurelio Martinez from Honduras and Adrien Martinez from Belize. Rather then focusing solely on danceable styles like punta rock, the Collective explores the more soulful side of Garifuna music, such as the Latin-influenced paranda, and the sacred dügü, punta and gunjei rhythms.

Palacio and Duran embarked on the production of Wátina, an album that would come to redefine modern Garifuna music and become one of the most critically-acclaimed world music releases of 2007. The initial recording sessions for this exceptional album took place over a 4-month period in an improvised studio inside a thatch-roofed cabin by the sea in the small village of Hopkins, Belize. It was an informal environment, where the musicians spent many hours playing together late into the night, honing the arrangements of the songs that would eventually end up on this album. While the traditions provided the inspiration, the musicians also added contemporary elements that helped give the songs relevance to their modern context. After the sessions, Ivan Duran worked tirelessly back at his studio to craft what is surely the pinnacle of Garifuna music production to date.

Wátina, which was released at the beginning of 2007, became one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre. Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of Best of the Year lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms. These best-of lists put an exclamation point on what had been an incredible year for Andy Palacio and the worldwide recognition of Garifuna music. In November, 2007, Palacio became the first Caribbean and Central American artist to be designated a UNESCO Artist for Peace. He received the prestigious WOMEX Award in October, 2007 which was co-awarded to Ivan Duran. In September, 2007 Palacio was conferred the Order of Meritorious Service by the Prime Minister of Belize. Wátina was also nominated for the influential BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio’s example.


Stonetree Records
35 Elizabeth Street
Benque Viejo del Carmen
Belize, Central America

t: 501-8232241
f: 501-8232240