Watina : Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective

Watina : Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective
Released in March of 2007, Watina is a beautiful tribute to Garifuna music and culture. It is also the final album of Belizean musician Andy Palacio, who died in January of 2008 at the age of 46 from respiratory failure. Palacio’s death highlights the importance of his purpose in this collaborative work: to preserve and revive the Garifuna language and culture.

The Garifuna (plural, Garinagu) are descendants of Amerindians and Africans. After shipwrecked slaves mixed with Caribbean tribes in the New World, they were expelled by the British to the east coast of Central America. They now live primarily in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras in small and somewhat isolated communities. There are also smaller Garifuna communities in the United States, Trinidad, Dominica and St. Vincent. It is estimated that there are less than half a million Garinagu left in the world today. However, even in the larger Central American communities, children speak Spanish in school and are more and more often becoming alienated from their own language and culture. It is this situation that Andy Palacio wanted to help change.

Andy Palacio had started out his musical career with punta rock, a form of dance music especially popular in Honduras and other Central American countries. But during a trip to Nicaragua, Palacio was stunned to find that not a single Garifuna under the age of 50 could speak the Garifuna language that he had grown up speaking at home in Belize. Not wanting to see the language and culture of his people die out in the next few generations, Palacio decided to make a turn in his musical career and devote himself to preserving and continuing the Garifuna musical traditions.

Watina, which means I called out in the Garifuna language, was a collaboration between Andy Palacio and over a dozen other Garifuna musical artists from different countries and generations. The musicians recorded over the span of four months by the Belizean sea, combining traditional music with modern rhythms. The result is an album that reflects the universal themes of loss, hope and unity in the context of Garifuna history and tradition.

Beautiful vocals and chants combine with the Garifuna primero and segunda drums to provide an exciting mix of African and Caribbean rhythms and influences. The weary longing of Watina and the bold hope of Lidan Aban (Together) became fast favorites of mine. Visit Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective’s MySpace page using the link below for music samples and English translations of the lyrics.

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