Aurelio’s Honduran Pop

The first beats are simple wavering chords, setting a basic outline. A strong steel drum leads in the guitar, seducing hips into swaying. Aurelio Martinez gives his listener a few measures to settle into his Caribbean home before he begins his song’s story—a tale of a sailor returned from sea for the birth of a son that just might not be his. Martinez’s voice is simultaneously breezy and joyful, while also a bit strained, as one might be in that rather uncomfortable position.

The entirety of Laru Beya, to be released January 18 as the second project of Sub Pop’s world-music imprint Next Ambiance, is an exercise in blended experience, recorded in studios from Honduras to Senegal. Like “Lubara Wanwa,” the sailor’s saga that opens the album, some of Martinez’s songs are whimsical stories of life on the Honduran coast where he grew up, while others carry a far darker, political tone.

Martinez is a Garifuna—a member of an ethnic minority descended from people who escaped from a slave ship, bound from Africa to the Americas, onto an island in the Caribbean—whose experience in South America has paralleled that of African Americans in the U.S. A history of violence, suppression, and segregation has left much of the population in areas underserved by essentials like roads and schools. The political oppression of the Garínagu (plural of Garifuna) inspires the weightier songs on Laru Beya.

Atlántida is the Honduran coastal region where Martinez makes his home and where Garínagu are in the majority. As far as he knew, his ethnic group had never been represented in the Honduran government. So in 2006, though he claimed to “dislike politics and politicians,” he ran for Congress and won a seat…continue Seattle Weekly news article.

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