Vieux Farka Toure

Aurelio Martinez

... a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the man, his music and the Garifuna culture. The TalkingGigs format was perfect ...

Thursday 2nd February 2017, 7.30pm

The HUBS (Sheffield Hallam Students' Union)

My thanks once more to TalkingGigs regular Nicky Crewe for her review (originally published on the very fine pennyblackmusic website) of the very special TalkingGig by Aurelio with his hugely talented band of Garifuna musicians.  This was another real coup for Sheffield and TalkingGigs, being one of only 4 UK gigs on the world tour to promote his new  CD, Darandi, which celebrates his 30 year career in music. It was also our first at the HUBS - once the National Centre for Popular Music and now the Students' Union for Sheffield Hallam University. And we needed the space to dance at this gig! I can see this proving to be another very popular venue with the TalkingGigs crowd.
As ever, it was a real treat to have the chance to chat with such a major star.  And Aurelio proved to be every bit as happy and positive as he always appears to be on stage.  His joy and positivity is no act. The first half flew by, covering some elements of Garifuna history and culture, with Aurelio also demonstrating different rhythms on the Garifuna drum and traditional dances ... the man is very nimble on his feet! And we didn't really touch on his time as a Congressman on the Honduran National Congress or his mentorship with the mighty Youssou N'Dour ... which is a great excuse to get him back again.
The second half was just joyous celebration with songs drawn from the Darandi  album, played with an infectious energy and charm by a band who clearly loved playing with each other.  While Aurelio is a charismatic frontman with an amazing voice, he shared many of the highlights of the evening with his wonderful band - whether trading licks with Garifuna jazz-style guitarist Guayo Cedeño or percussion duets (duels?) with Onan "Sambo" Castillo on the Garifuna drum.  And this was all underpinned by the powerful rhythms of Anagel Suazo (drums) and Junior Guerrero (bass).  Many of the audience were on their feet from the first song and virtually everyone up and dancing by the last - a truly wonderful occasion.
We did manage to film the gig and hope to put together some highlights soon ... but meanwhile you'll have to put up with just this single song. Enjoy!

All photographs - Danielle Mustarde

Courtesy of Nicky Crewe and the pennyblackmusic website:

Imagine having the opportunity to see and hear someone who is the embodiment of a UNESCO citation! Garifuna language, music and dance is recognised as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and Aurelio Martinez is its ambassador. 

As a master musician he has spread the Garifuna message far and wide through collaborations with other musicians, his recordings, his involvement in Honduran politics and his world wide tours. The Garifuna nation and its culture reflects this diversity too, bringing together strands of African slavery, English and Spanish colonialism, Catholic missionary activity, and dispersal from home islands to the Caribbean coastal areas within Central America. There are ongoing issues around the survival of the Garifuna language and the right to sought after coastal land, ripe for tourism development. 

For the first part of the evening Aurelio was interviewed by Charles Ritchie, founder of TalkingGigs. Aurelio started with a request from Charles, an acoustic version of his song ‘Africa’. Setting the tone, the conversation and music explored the Garifuna tradition, through examples of rhythms and dance moves as well as songs. It’s a tradition that has a ceremonial purpose, with different rhythms for different life events. Connection with the ancestors is particularly important. The role of women is also paramount in the Garifuna community. Issues around colonisation and suppression of the Garifuna language and traditions were touched on, but Aurelio was keen to be positive, reminding us that life is about love and freedom and community, and that music is part of that. His great friend and collaborator, the late Andy Palacio, was also celebrated in song. 

The second half brought the whole band on stage to join him, bringing the audience to their feet to enjoy the energy of great Garifuna music. 

This was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the man, his music and the Garifuna culture. The TalkingGigs format was perfect, with its mix of interview and performance. 

There’s been a huge amount of interest in Aurelio’s music and his message as he has been touring Europe. Songlines, The Guardian, Celtic Connections, radio and social media have all been spreading the word about his live appearances and his new album, Darandi. 

This concert in Sheffield was sold out, and there’s a sense that it is something of a coup that he is appearing in a city that is known for its support of world music and refugees. TalkingGigs collaborate to fundraise with Assist, a local refugee organisation. 

The Hubs is a new venue for TalkingGigs. Now Sheffield Hallam University’s student union, the building was designed as the ill fated National Centre for Popular Music in 1999.  It was a successful collaboration on the night and should put a new venue for world music on the map. 

Aurelio Martinez is an artist that brings the past to the present and looks for ways of making it relevant to the future. The mix of influences in his Garifuna heritage makes this a truly international music, bringing a message of love and freedom worldwide.