British dance music superstar Fatboy Slim visited Belize in early April to participate in a unique recording session that brought together European club grooves with the soulful rhythms and melodies of the local Afro-Caribbean Garifuna community.
Fatboy Slim, whose real name is Norman Cook, is a world-famous DJ whose records have sold millions of copies and whose award-winning music videos have set new standards for the medium. Andy Palacio is a Belizean musician who was born and raised in a small coastal village and whose critically acclaimed new album Wátina was recorded in a rustic thatch shack on the beach.
The unlikely pairing took place on the picturesque resort island of San Pedro, Belize during the last week of March. The musical experiments were inspired by Fatboy Slim’s fascination with Garifuna music. The Garifuna are a unique Central American culture that brings together elements of West African traditions with Indigenous Caribbean heritage. Their language reflects influences from West African and Caribbean Arawak languages. Garifuna music has a deeply African flavor and is played with traditional turtle shell percussion, gourd rattles and wooden drums, as well as contemporary instruments.
“We arrived here with no real songs, no real ideas. I came here with a CD with beats and bass sounds from England and about half an idea of what to do and over the last four days we've hung out with the local musicians, listened to what they do, tried to match the two and see what happens,” Fatboy Slim said of the sessions.
Working in the Mata Grande Recording Studio just north of San Pedro village, Fatboy Slim recorded members of the Garifuna Collective jamming on traditional Garifuna drums. Backup singers Cella Torres and Deseree Arana also provided vocals in the unique local style. Meanwhile, Andy Palacio wrote and sang a song for the sessions, and local spoken-word poet and dancehall singer the Grandmaster also made a guest appearance. Belizean music producer Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records was on hand to help with the interaction between technology and tradition.
The sessions resulted in three tracks that will be released by Fatboy Slim on his next album, possibly under another pseudonym, The Mighty Dub Katz. Fatboy Slim has also offered to remix some tracks from Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective album Wátina, which was released recently by Cumbancha and has been receiving critical accolades around the world.
For a complete listing of Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective’s touring schedule, please check out the World Music Concerts section of the Global Rhythm website.