Umalali, the Garifuna word for 'voice", is a moving ensemble that captures the beauty and power of Garifuna female expression. A unique culture based on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Garifuna traditions blend elements of West African and Native Caribbean heritage. With singers from the Garifuna communities of Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala, more than 50 women of many generations took part in this unparalleled recording.
Over ten years in the making, Umalali was initially recorded in homes, seaside shacks, festivities and other intimate settings. Women of all ages, many of whom had never been recorded before, were invited to take part in a series of ground-breaking sessions with Andy Palacio and members of the Garifuna Collective, a multi-generational ensemble featuring some of the most accomplished musicians of the Garifuna community. The Collective's mission is to maintain the threatened music of the Garifuna community, while keeping their traditions thriving in a modern context.
Belizean producer Ivan Duran, who has been responsible for numerous memorable recordings of Garifuna music, brings a fascinating new dimension to traditional Garifuna songs, creating a project that blends local tradition with contemporary recording techniques.
The result is UMALALI, a moving and inspirational album that pays tribute to the rich heritage carried in the voices of Garifuna women.
Sophia Blanco from Livingston, Guatemala is considered one of the most striking female singers in the Garifuna community today. In her late-40s, Sophia has been singing all of her life and comes from a family of composers and singers. Her grandmother, mother and daughter have all been singers. Producer Ivan Duran first heard Sophia singing acapella at the home of Paul Nabor, the 79-year old Garifuna music patriarch and Garifuna Collective member. Blanco's moving voice can be heard on the song "Nibari" which was composed by her husband. Blanco has never performed outside of the Garifuna community before and she is looking forward to participating in the tour of Umalali.
Desere Arana is the youngest singer in the Umalali project, in her late 20s, one of the few young female singers that have made an effort to reconnect to the roots of Garifuna music. Desere's commitment to music is even more impressive because it is very hard to earn a living in music especially if you are a women. She sings at almost every dugu in the country, a spiritual ceremony feast to honor the dead in a family. Family members come together for several days of music, food and religious rituals. It is a healing ceremony. Desere sings alongside three large Garifuna drums. Desere is featured on the song "Singe Singe" and her voice is edgier and higher pitched then Sophia Blanco's.