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Andy Palacio, Garifuna Musician, 47

Musician Andy Palacio used music as a method of cultural preservation.
Miguel Medina / AFP/Getty Images
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AFP/Getty Images
Musician Andy Palacio used music as a method of cultural preservation.

Andy Palacio found his life's calling when he visited a Garifuna community in Nicaragua and discovered that no one under the age of 50 could speak their native language.

The Garifuna people are believed to be descendants of shipwrecked West African slaves and live in isolated communities on the east coast of Central America. A Garifuna himself, Palacio saw his culture vanishing before his eyes. He committed himself to preserving the Garifuna culture through music.

In 2007 Palacio released Watina, an internationally acclaimed album of songs in the Garifuna language, performed with local musicians and using his culture's rhythms. Less than a year later Palacio died of a massive stroke. He was 47.

Palacio knew that if his Garifuna heritage was to survive, the next generation would have to be convinced it was worth saving. When asked how he intended to interest his children in their culture, Palacio said, "I make songs that hopefully they love and listen to and sing and understand."

Because of his vibrant music we are all able to discover what the Garifuna culture has to offer.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Greg Dixon