Emmanuel and I regret to announce that one of our favorite musicians, the award-winning Andy Palacio, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend. Here is the story verbatim from the New York Times.
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Andy Palacio, Who Saved Garifuna Music, Dies at 47
By Jon Pareles, New York Times
Published: January 21, 2008
Andy Palacio, a bandleader and songwriter who spearheaded a revival of the Garifuna music of Central America, died Saturday in his native Belize City, Belize. He was 47 and lived in San Ignacio, Belize.
The cause was respiratory failure after a stroke and heart attack, according to Jacob Edgar, president of his record company, Cumbancha.
In Belize, Mr. Palacio was nationally known as both a musician and an advocate for Garifuna culture. “Watina,” his album with the Garifuna Collective, was acclaimed as one of the best world music releases of 2007.
The Garifuna (pronounced ga-RI-foo-nah) are descendants of West African slaves who were shipwrecked in 1635 off the coast of what is now the island of St. Vincent and intermarried with local Arawak and Carib people. Garifuna villages arose on the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. There are now an estimated 250,000 Garifuna people worldwide, a minority culture under pressure from assimilation and coastal development.
“I decided to use music as a medium for cultural preservation,” Mr. Palacio said in an interview with NPR last year. “At least we’d be able to use the language in the songs and keep them alive.”
Mr. Palacio grew up in a Garifuna family in the coastal village of Barranco, Belize, and soaked up local and international music. He worked as a high school teacher, and on a visit to Nicaragua with a literacy project, he met an elderly man who was one of the last Garifuna speakers in Nicaragua. He resolved to preserve the language at home and in 1981 served as host of a Garifuna program on Radio Belize.
During the 1980s, Mr. Palacio used Garifuna rhythms in punta rock, a popular Caribbean dance music, and had Central American hits, including “Bikini Panty” and “Gimme Punta Rock.” In the mid-1990s, working with the producer Ivan Duran, Mr. Palacio made albums with musicians from Belize and Cuba, and in 1999 he appeared with older Garifuna musicians on the album “Paranda.” After various government jobs, he was named director of culture at the Belize Arts Council in 2003.
Meanwhile, Mr. Palacio and Mr. Duran worked to assemble the Garifuna Collective, which brought together multiple generations of Garifuna musicians for socially conscious songs. Mr. Palacio’s album with the collective, “Watina,” uses the Afro-Caribbean lilt of vintage Garifuna styles along with modern touches like an occasional electric guitar. The songs carry messages like: “Our ancestors fought to remain Garifuna/ Why must we be the ones to lose our culture?” It stimulated a rediscovery of Garifuna music among younger musicians in Central America.
The prime minister of Belize gave Mr. Palacio the Order of Meritorious Service in September 2007, and in November, Mr. Palacio was named a Unesco Artist for Peace. “I hope that our efforts will not only preserve Garifuna culture but also re-energize a generation,” he told NPR.
Mr. Palacio is survived by his mother, Cleofa Avilez; his brother, Oswald Lopez; his sister, Jacinta Palacio; his children, Kami, Uani, Nita, Tara, Kamou; and two granddaughters.