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Andy Palacio

Biography

The most famous musician from Belize, Andy Palacio is the charismatic force behind a new style of popular music called "punta rock." A self-taught singer, Palacio worked as a teacher and lived in England, where he began cultivating his musical aspirations. Returning to Belize, he was distressed to find the music and culture of the African-descended Garifuna people disappearing throughout the Caribbean coast of Central America. Incorporating strong rhythms played on handmade drums and turtle shells into a musical format including electric bass, guitar, trap drums and keyboards, he emerged with a modern sound that lies somewhere between Soca and the Garifuna folklore. Sung in English and African-derived tongues, the vocals were compelling and the rhythms infectious. In 2006, Palacio teamed up with longtime producer Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records to record Watina, an album that departed from his earlier sound and delved deeply into traditional Garifuna culture. Duran and Palacio assembled a host of Garifuna musicians for the recording, including Garifuna elder/singer Paul Nabor, in a seaside house and recorded an album that quickly topped critics' lists when it released in 2007. Palacio won the 2007 Womex award, as well. In early 2008, the 47-year-old Palacio had a heart attack and then a stroke in Belize. He was rushed to the United States for treatment, but after going through customs (and before reaching the Chicago hospital he was heading for) he fell into a coma and died in Mobile, Alabama on January 19th. The world lost a magnificent voice -- and a tireless crusader for threatened cultures.
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