Laru Beya

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The Garifuna people have their cultural origins in the wreck of a slave ship bound from West Africa. Abandoned on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, they intermingled with the Arawak and Carib tribes and the music of the resulting community reflects just the blend of elements one might expect, along with some that might be surprising. On this album from Garifuna artist Aurelio, you'll hear Brazilian-style percussion patterns, lyrics in French and in the Garifuna language, grooves derived from reggae and rocksteady, and gorgeously layered call-and-response harmony vocals. This is music simultaneously joyful and sad; notice, in particular, the bouncy and percolating groove that buoys "Yange" above its undertow of regret and sorrow, and the strangely goofy guitar sounds that add a layer of whimsy over the moody minor-key chord progression of "Bisien Nu." The title track is built on the rubber-band beat of vintage rocksteady, but counterbalances the rhythm's lightness with a rich density of horns and voices. And the album's closing track, the utterly sumptuous "Ereba," inhabits a strange borderland somewhere between samba and township jive. Listen to this album three or four times in quick succession and you'll hear something different each time; it's difficult to imagine growing tired of it.

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