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TalkingGigs, The Hubs, Sheffield, 2/2/2017
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.
Photographs by Danielle Mustarde
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Nicky Crewe at a TalkingGigs show at The Hubs in Sheffield discovers what it's like to become part of the Garifuna nation, thanks to the wonderful music of its ambassador Aurelio Martinez.
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