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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Andy Palacio

By Phil Freeman
Published June 11, 2007

Watina
Cumbancha

Guitarist and singer Andy Palacio, from Belize, formed the Garifuna Collective with the goal of bringing the music of this unique, West African-meets-Caribbean culture to broader attention. The group features singers and musicians from Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, playing a music that will seem both familiar and brand new to listeners familiar with the way rock and blues vocabularies have spread across the globe.

The songs on Watina are primarily built from a few ingredients: guitar, electric bass, sparse drumming and hand percussion, along with vocals in the Garifuna language. The unfamiliarity of this lilting tongue, which sounds similar to West African languages, makes the music easier to appreciate as pure sound. The compositions are slowly building trance grooves, with call-and-response vocals and occasional outbursts of horns. The production is primarily naturalistic, though there are a few studio effects (echo, reverb) sprinkled here and there. The grooves are mostly lilting island-style stuff, with one or two tracks approaching an Afro-beat-like level of propulsion. Palacio’s motivation for making this record might have been didactic, but as David Lee Roth once sang, in another context, “I think of all the education that I missed/But then my homework was never quite like this.”