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The Garifuna Women's Project
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Garifuna people live in enclaves along the Caribbean coast of Belize and other Central American countries; they have strong, vibrantly alive African roots and, up until modern times, their own distinctive language and dialects. A few decades ago, the Garifuna culture was in danger of dying out, but in the 1980s a group of younger artists seized it back from the precipice, embraced it, and brought it into the 20th Century. One of their most prominent artists, Andy Palacio, delved into the wellspring of Garifuna traditional music, both preserving the fading oral tradition and combining it with rock, jazz, and other outside influences. He led several bands, and more recently released solo albums including his last one, "Watina" (also on the Cumbancha label) which brought widespread acclaim, just before his untimely passing away early in 2008.

Despite the loss of its great champion, Garifuna culture appears to be healthy and thriving, at least if this fine compilation album is any indication. This is a set of music featuring several women from Palacio's own region of Belize, with keening vocals set against sleek, velvety modern arrangements. Sofia Blanco, Desere Diego, Bernadine Flores, Damiana Gutierez, Sarita Martinez: none of these are famous musicians -- indeed, their singing style is marked by its roughness and authentic rural character, a distinctly African vocal style that's rather similar to the "roda de samba" samba circles sung by older women in Bahia, Brazil. The pairing of the contemporary pop production and their other-worldly chanting seems potentially perilous, but much to the producers' credit, they don't subsume the women's vocals, don't remix or gussy them up, but rather play off of them, and support them delicately and with admirable restraint. Although the rugged core of their pre-modern culture is left intact, the album is surprisingly rich and engaging... Another nice one from this up-and-coming new label! Recommended. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue music reviews)
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
When my heart hardens and my armor needs piercing, I go to the music of women. And if they don't sing in English, the better --- it's the sound that heals. Like the first 30 seconds of Noirin Ni Riain. Or anything by the Divas of Mali. And, now, the Garifuna women of Belize.

I have already praised Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective. That effort to save a culture and language from extinction was admirable. But even more, the music was spectacular --- I thought this was the most interesting World CD I heard in 2007.

And now, ten years in the making, we have a dozen songs by Garifuna women. It was recorded where Ivan Duran, the CD's inexhaustible producer, found women singing: in kitchens, streets, temples. They sang of the life they knew. And, when asked to record, they showed up when they could make time.

One song was inspired by a conversation overhead between a grandmother and her granddaughter. "Leave behind those street-walking girlfriends of yours," she says. "That is not glory, that is not luck. Good luck for you is obeying my words."

Another song asks an unborn child why his birth is so difficult. Another, again sung from a mother's point-of-view, laments rumors that she is prostituting her daughter: "All I can do is look around, I am so disappointed/ It is all over the newspapers on the streets." Almost as an answer, another singer dismisses all gossip about her: "I only depend on one thing, and that is work/ No one will make me hang my head here."

Another song is a wife's lament to her traveling husband. And, perhaps the saddest, is a mother's cry at hearing the news that her policeman son has been killed in a brawl. "What will become of me on this earth now that you're gone?" she asks. "What shall I say to your siblings when they arrive?"

These lyrics are not exactly a pick-me-up, so the good news is that you won't understand a word they're singing. But the feel of the CD isn't sad in any way. The music is pretty much pure joy.

The joy is the living, the simple fact of it. History bypassed these women long ago; theirs is the life of eternal duties, ancient rhythms and primal emotions. Photographed in cotton dresses against sand and sea, they look wise. And they look beautiful --- beautiful because of what they know rather than how they look.

And so, when they sing, you feel they are singing truth. They don't really have another reason to sing --- they've had no show-biz careers and won't get them now. So these songs are like field recordings, which are then layered and processed and yet somehow still sound authentic.

I've had "Umalali" in heavy rotation for weeks now, as an antidote to a tsunami of bad news and the prospect of more coming. I hear the strumming of guitars, the pulsing of drums, and then, like a knife, Sofia Blanco asking for a moment with her granddaughter. I don't know how that conversation worked out in the lives of its characters. In my life, she has my fullest attention.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2008
Umalali's "Garifuna Women's Project" is earthy, rootsy music. It's a refreshing,down-to-earth contrast with pop divas like Mariah Carey, Leona Lewis, and Madonna. There's nothing prefab here. The Garifuna women (descendants of African slaves and Native tribes) sing about the ordinary travails of life. They sing of destructive hurricanes, the pain of childbirth, loneliness in a husband's absence. Their singing has a depth&bittersweetness to it.

The opening song,"Nibari",is a powerful plea of a grandmother to her grandchild. "Merua" is a jazzy tribute to an island off the coast of Honduras&daily life. "Yunduya Weyu" (The Sun has Set) is an electrifying song about pain after childbirth. "Barubana Yagien (Take Me Away)" is an Afropop-flavored love song. "Tuguchili Elia (Elia's Father)" is a lament to a distant husband. The closing song, "Lirun Biganute (Sad News)" is a deep lament for a deceased son. It's fitting,considering that Andy Palacio, who started the Garifuna Collective and kickstarted interest in Garifuna culture,died prematurely in January.

"Garifuna Women's Project" is a song of the human experience: sadness, joy, love, loneliness, birth, death. In 38 minutes, it travels through daily life. It's a journey worth taking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Besides introducting us to the little known music of the Black-Caribbean Indian Garifuna peoples living along the coast of Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, this CD is enhanced with interactive videos of the folk artists in their homes and villages, of celebrations, and of demonstrations of different drum rhythms. [A computer is required for running the videos.] The music itself is strongly West African with more than a Latin tinge and it is sung in Garifuna, although Spanish is the primary language. The sound is unique and full of emotion and rhythm. I certainly wanted to hear more and learn more after purchasing this collection, a joyful education.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2008
All songs sung by women, this cd gives people the opportunity to hear the voices of women singing Garifuna music they have composed themselves or members of their family have composed. Garifunas from different communities/countries in Central America are well represented in this collection. The explanations of the songs, the women's experiences, and the song translations increase my appreciation for the music even though I do not understand what they are saying in the moment.
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on January 3, 2015
What can I say about this CD, except that is fabulous. I enjoyed listening to songs like "Nibari", " Fuleise" etc....Umalali really delivers on this CD, if you want to gift something having to do with the Garifuna culture you won't go wrong with this music.
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on September 28, 2012
I am very pleased with the CD. As always the Garifuna culture impresses me and their music couldn't be more beautiful.
I didn't have any problem with downloading the MP3's, so that part of the process was also satisfying.
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on June 23, 2014
The rhythms, harmonies and emotion in these songs inspire me in my art-making. The liner notes add the stories and situation of the people behind the music. This is a moving tribute to acknowledge women and their work.
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on December 30, 2008
I like this CD so much.. makes me remember my childhood and going 'fedu' with my mom.. and my favorite song is "nibari" reminds me so much of my grandma and what every garifuna grandma would tell her grandaughter.
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on May 23, 2012
I really enjoy the music. I listen to it on repeat day after day. It calms and uplifts me at the same time. I get irritated by modern music after listening to this, it feels so pure and wholesome. Hard to beat.
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