Honduran Music, Aurelio Martinez, & The Garifuna People
We have admired Roatan for its beautiful turquoise waters and eye-popping underwater paradise which is just perfect for scuba diving, YET we haven’t seen it all. Roatan’s historic past brought by a mix of Caribbean, European, and African heritage makes it a wonderfully diverse region for experiencing traditional Honduran culture. This diving mecca’s beauty can be experienced through a different form of art, something you can discover by meeting the locals, including the friendly, hospitable, and musically-inclined Garifuna people.
When it comes to Garifuna music, there’s a household name which every tourist ought to know : Aurelio Martinez. Martinez is one of the most popular Garifuna singer, songwriter, guitarist, and percussionist today. Popularly known as Aurelio, Martinez is known for his warm, soulful and moving music inspired by his people and heritage. Just last year, Aurelio released his fourth album Darandil on Real World Records.
Aside from being a musician, Aurelio is also an activist and former politician. He is the current cultural ambassador of the Garifuna nation and considers his music “his weapon to make a change”. Hailing from a family of musicians, Aurelio’s love of Music started at home. “My music school was my family” says Aurelio in a recent interview. Aurelio’s father was a guitarist and his mother who was a singer and composer of Garifuna music is his primary inspiration for most of his songs.
In order to understand Aurelio’s music, you have to learn his background and culture. Aurelio is part of the Garifuna community, a mixed-race indigenous tribe located in Honduras and various parts of the Caribbean. The first Garifuna people were believed to have originated in the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. They were shipwreck survivors from West Africa who were initially sold as slaves to the Americans. After meeting the island’s native Kalinago people, they adapted to their culture, language and way of living.
In 1795, when the English troops colonized the Caribbean, they expelled the Garifuna people and shipped them towards the coasts of Honduras. From there, the tribes spread into Belize, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Due to cultural assimilation, lots of traditional Garifuna cultures are already dying. Despite sharing a common society, The Garifuna language is slowly disappearing with the culture under threat by commercial tourism industry and religious missionaries. Because of this, Aurelio wants to preserve Garifuna music and have more people appreciate it, especially the young Garifuna generation today.
Garifuna music is unlike any other. Hearing it for the first time may give you west African, Bob Marley feels. Although it’s more folk than New Orleans jazz, it has all the melancholy vibes as our favorite blues. And despite not being able to understand the lyrics of the song, you can appreciate the beauty of what he is singing through his vocals. He has a very evocative and warm singing voice that just fills the room wherever he is. If you’re sick and tired of modern pop music that all sounds the same, maybe some Garifuna music is just the thing you need.