Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective

Monday, August 13

The backstory is an inspiring one: An obscure Afro-Indian language and culture is rescued from near-extinction by a popular Belizean singer, who convenes a posse of veteran Central American “all-stars,” hits the world-music festival circuit, and brings a folk tradition to an uplifted public. Hats off to Andy Palacio and his Garifuna Collective for their act of cultural revival. But forgive me, too, for being a little cynical about this well-marketed story line and, much more, the mellow, Starbucks-friendly, anodyne music that accompanies it (on CD, at least). The packaging of “authentic” ethnic sounds has become pretty formulaic in the years since the Buena Vista Social Club, and I can’t help feeling like Palacio’s band is receiving the mainstream attention and support it is because their product is a safe (read: marketable), vanilla version of “exotic.” No surprise that the Collective comes courtesy of the new Cumbancha label, founded by a former overseer at Putumayo—which, even more than Nonesuch, has perfected the art of compiling global music that is relentlessly inoffensive.

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