Aurelio Martinez is a Honduran Garifuna singer-songwriter. He is the leading voice of the Garifuna people, speakers of the last remaining Indigenous Carib language.
About the Garifuna People
The story of Aurelio is tied to his people. Garifuna speakers are Indigenous Carib mixed with Black from St. Vincent in the Antilles. They spoke a blend of Carib and Arawak. The Carib had conquered the Arawak and Carib men took Arawak women. So men spoke Carib and women spoke Arawak. Boys would be taught Carib when they came of age, so there existed this unusual blend of the two languages.
Garifuna speakers are also mixed with West Africans who escaped Spanish shipwrecks and lived with the Caribe.
The Garifuna were expelled by the British in 1797 and ended up in coastal Honduras. From there Garifuna people have spread into Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Belize.
The language died out in the Antilles, so the Garifuna people are a unique remnant of the Indigenous Carib. New York City has the largest population of Garifuna outside of Central America.
About Aurelio Martinez
Aurelio Martinez was born into a musical family and became a talented drummer as a child. He learned his rhythms in the traditional way from his uncles and grandfather. Aurelio learned to sing from his mother. As a boy, Aurelio was already participating in Garifuna rituals.
As a teenager he started to play in Latin bands. The first album Aurelia recorded with Grupo Garifuna de Honduras was Lita Ariran (JVC Records, 1995). It is a Garifuna classic.
Aurelio’s first solo recording Garifuna Soul (Stonetree Records, 2004) mixed Garifuna traditions with pop instrumentation. He later worked with Afropop legend Youssou N’Dour.
Aurelio came back to what he considers a roots Garifuna sound in Lándini (Real World Productions, 2014). His latest is Darandi, a greatest hits live collection.
Aurelio plays a free concert at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 7:30pm.
Aurelio played Symphony Space in a show produced by the World Music Institute on November 22, 2014.