Punta Soul (RT 39:30)
I first met Belize’s Garifuna son, Andy Palacio, at an open-air concert at Y-Not Island in Dangriga. Hearing the syncopated drums announcing Andy’s Bikini Panty, I shuffled my feet on the worn-down grass and danced my own version of the punta until I was breathless. Backstage, after the show, Andy teased me slyly, saying he was glad a yenki gial could feel the music. He knew I’d gotten a taste of the electricity that Garifuna music held.
Andy was a musician who rocked you. On stage, his compact frame seemed to stretch taller and wider, like the strings of his guitar. His forehead sloped back, and when he gazed back on the crowd they blazed with the knowing fire of the other world he had just set foot into. This was the larger-than-life Andy who, long before his award-winning album, “Watina” (Stonetree Records), caused people in global music circles look on a map to find Belize. I knew him knew as a friend.
Garifuna musicians re-exposed me to the music when I was a twenty-something in New York City, working as an Assistant General Counsel at a non-profit by day and moonlighting in an afrobeat band by night. My parents, afro-Creole Belizeans, had played the music when I was young, but hadn’t told me much about where it came from.
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My journey to make Punta Soul ultimately took me to the WOMEX Awards in Seville, Spain in 2007 to film Andy, the Garifuna Collective, and producer Ivan Duran as they claimed the Best World Music Artist Award for Watina. Afterwards, Andy told me that what made him happiest was the warm reception among folks back home. Two renowned Garifuna elders had told Andy after hearing the album that his greatest work was done. He’d done so well, the ancestors were whispering, that he could now “go in peace,” he said.
I laughed nervously when he said these words in a parking lot outside a hotel in Burlington, Vermont. “Not so soon, Andy!” I said. But something nameless sat in the silence. Months later, Andy had his last performance at the Bliss Centre for Performing Arts in Belize City. The epic finale, and my talks with Andy, are captured in the film.
Did he really know that his sudden time had come? I don’t think so. But I’m certain that he felt something. And what he knew for sure is that at this pinnacle of his career, it was time for him to go home to Barranco. That his ancestors were calling. Every time I think about this I realize how much I learned from Andy. The ancestral connections that he shared with all of us are the seeds of mindfulness, another step along the path to connecting to that noble, higher self within.
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