UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Andy Palacio

Belizean singer-guitarist lifts spirits through African and indigenous music

By Kevin Spurgaitis

Wátina
By Andy Palacio (Belize)
Stonetree Records


It’s said that Andy Palacio was one of those rare musicians with one foot in cultural diplomacy and another on the performance stage. When the Belizean singer-guitarist embarked on a musical career in the 1990s, he scored a series of hits with the up-tempo dance floor formula known as punta rock. Eager to dig further into his roots, he went on to explore more traditional forms of Garifuna music, which combines African and indigenous elements, and includes a variety of a cappella songs and circle dances.

Palacio died of a massive stroke in January. He was 47. But before his death, he was able to convince UNESCO, the United Nation’s educational, scientific and cultural branch, to preserve the Garifuna language, music and dance. He later became a UNESCO Artist for Peace and an official in Belize’s Ministry of Culture.

“Music being the thing that I love most, I decided to use it as a medium for cultural preservation,” Palacio said in 2007. “I remember an elderly Garifuna statesman here in Belize saying we cannot stop Garifuna culture from dying and that all we can do is delay its death. I hope that’s not true.”

His last album, Wátina, was recorded with his group, the Garifuna Collective, a loose community of musicians from Belize’s leading record label, Stonetree Records. It blends African and Caribbean chants and rough-hewn ballads, while exploring themes of loss, religious faith, land rights and cultural unity.

Songs speak to the need for the Garifuna to cherish and celebrate their heritage. Weyu Lárigi Weyu (“Day by Day”) uses a rhythm extracted from ritual music called dügü, played in traditional healing ceremonies all over Central America. As Palacio put it, “the song is a prayer asking God’s blessings for our people and asking for guidance, strength and healing in an afflicted world.”

Muscular and melodic, Palacio’s music celebrates the high energy of Caribbean, Spanish and Creole rhythms. And sung in Garifuna, his songs will surely lift your spirits — and keep you shaking till dawn.

Recommended listening:

Til Da Mawnin (1997)
Keimoun (1995)

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image