Published Jan 21, 2008Influential songwriter and bandleader Andy Palacio died at his home in Belize City, Belize this past Saturday (January 19). The musician, known for spearheading a revival of the Garifuna music of Central America, passed away after suffering a stroke and heart attack, which caused respiratory failure. He was 47.
Palacio was viewed as a prime advocate for Garifuna culture, a West African minority tribe that rose out of slavery after a shipwreck in the 1700s and developed throughout nations such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Along with his Garifuna Collective, Palacio released Watina in 2007, an homage to the Garifuna language and people. The album received universal plaudits and took them all across the world on a well-received tour.
The Belizean artist led a colourful life, working as a high school teacher, a government official and in 2003 became the director of culture at the Belize Arts Council. Musically, he helped develop "Belizean Punta," a popular type of Caribbean music that combined electronics with the ancestral rhythms of the Garifuna people. Along with producer Ivan Duran, Palacio founded the Garifuna Collective, which united local musicians of all generations to write songs that delivered socially conscious messages.
For his work preserving Garifuna culture, Palacio was awarded both UNESCO's Artist for Peace honour and the Order of Meritorious Service last year, to which he said: "I hope that our efforts will not only preserve Garifuna culture but also re-energise a generation."