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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean


By Tom Orr
Published September 23, 2005

Lebeha Drumming

The music of Central America’s Garifuna people is a growing presence on the global scene, due in no small part to the invigorating mix of African, Amerindian and European components that comprise it. Actually, you can scratch off that last ingredient in the case of this recording. The roots of the Garifuna (or Garinagu) go back to the African survivors of two sunken 17th century slave ships who mixed with the inhabitants of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and elsewhere. Subsequently surviving brutal colonial oppression as well, their culture stands strong today. Many contemporary Garifuna musicians, including greats like Andy Palacio and Aurelio Martinez, bring guitar and other melodic instruments into the picture, but this disc boils it down to the essence. A group of Garifuna lads all under 15 years old let it rip on hand drums, turtle shells, shakers, assorted knick-knacks and vocals. The recording is raw and unpolished, the sound is brimming with youthful muscle reminiscent of early Olatunji and the effect upon listening is one of pure unpretentious pleasure. These kids have got it going on.