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Bearing the Stories of Their People in Songs of Joy, Sorrow, Strength and Beauty

Umalali: The Garifuna Womens Project presents the hidden voices of Garifuna women to the world
US/Canada Release Date: March 18th, 2008
For more information, review copies, song lyrics & descriptions, interviews, photographs, tour dates and other support materials, etc. please contact: Simeon Chapin @ Cumbancha Tel: +1 (802) 425-2118 * Fax: +1 (866) 340-0054 * Email: * Online Press Kit:

Umalali: The Garifuna Womens Project is an album overflowing with stories. There is the story of how it was made: a tenyear labor of love that started with five years of collecting songs and discovering striking female voices, followed by recording sessions in a seaside hut, and ending with exquisitely detailed and subtle production wizardry. There are the stories told in the songs: of hurricanes that swept away homes and livelihoods, a son murdered in a far-off village, the pain of childbirth and other struggles and triumphs of daily life. There are the personal stories of the women who participated in this magical recording project: mothers and daughters who, while working tirelessly to support their families, sing songs and pass on the traditions of their people to future generations. Umalali is also the story of a young, innovative music producer from Belize whose meticulous and inventive craftsmanship has resulted in what will surely be recognized as one of the most uplifting and moving albums in recent memory. Blending the rich vocal textures of Garifuna women with echoes of rock, blues, funk, African, Latin and Caribbean music, Umalali is an entrancing journey into the heart and soul of women whose strength, hard work and perseverance provide the bedrock of their community. Umalali: The Garifuna Womens Project, which will be released by Cumbancha on March 18th, 2008, is a groundbreaking album that invites the listener behind closed doors into a fascinating musical world that has remained largely unexposed until now. The project was produced by Ivan Duran, the mastermind behind Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collectives album Wtina, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of any genre in 2007. Descendents of shipwrecked African slaves who intermarried with the Carib and Arawak Indians of the Caribbean, the Garifuna people live primarily in small towns and villages on the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Umalali: The Garifuna Womens Project expands on the story of this fascinating community, which is struggling to retain its unique language, music and traditions in the face of globalization. The Umalali project began in 1997, when Ivan Duran began traveling to Garifuna villages in search of exceptional female voices. The founder of the Belize-based label Stonetree Records, Duran had noticed that while men were usually in the spotlight, it was the women that were the true caretakers of Garifuna traditions, and were often responsible for new compositions that dealt with issues of day-to-day life. With women, music is more part of their daily lives, explains Duran. They are the bearers of most of the traditions, they are the ones who stay at home with the children while the men are either out to sea all day on their fishing boats or working abroad to earn money to send home to the family. Duran began by recording women in natural settings: kitchens, living rooms, in the streets or in the Garifuna temples, often putting on tape voices that had never been recorded before. But while Ivan recognized the importance of documenting these songs, his intention was always to create something more. He had in mind a musical journey, one that blended Garifuna traditions with contemporary flavors to capture the soul and spirit of Garifuna women in a way that would translate to the wider world. Says Duran, The project was always about the stories, about the lives of these women, about capturing the essence of their voices and putting them in a modern context. I was looking for songs that people everywhere could enjoy for their musicality and melodies, not just on a purely intellectual level.

During these early years of the project, Duran discovered a number of exceptional talents, women with striking voices and engaging personalities, whose songs echoed with the joys and sorrows they had experienced during their lives. Sofia Blanco, a 54-year old mother of four from Livingston, Guatemala, first sang for Ivan in the temple home of Garifuna Collective member Paul Nabor. The minute she opened her mouth and he heard her tender and heartbreaking voice, Duran knew he had found a singer for the ages. Sofia would end up singing lead vocals on two tracks for Umalali, including the mesmerizing opening song Nibari, which was composed by her fisherman husband of 38-years, Goyo. Sofia and Goyo have spent their lives singing as a couple and with their children, including their daughter Silvia who also sings lead vocals on two Umalali songs. Duran was also introduced to Desere Arana, a young singer in her late 20s who is one of the few Garifuna women to make her living through music. Blessed with a powerful voice that can echo over pounding drums and chants for hours on end, Desere sings at almost every dg ceremony in southern Belize. A traditional healing ceremony, the dg is a ritual feast in which the community comes together to honor an ancestor and ask them for assistance in curing the illness of a living family member. In 2002, after five years of research and preparation, Duran set up a recording studio in a small, grass-roofed hut that rests on stilts just steps from the Caribbean Sea in the village of Hopkins, Belize. The songs, many of which were composed by the women who sang them, included moving ballads, upbeat anthems of celebration and religious chants. It wasnt always easy getting the women he wanted into the studio because they were so busy with their daily chores and jobs. For example, the singer of Hattie, a song about Hurricane Hattie that devastated Belize in 1961, could barely spare a few hours to record. Duran recalls, She had a family to attend to, her kids were coming back from school, she had to do this, do that. Whereas the men were often hanging out drinking beer on the veranda of the studio, not a problem, man! Definitely not the case with the women, who always put their family and work priorities first. But the women knew they were part of something exceptional, a project that would link them to their Garifuna brethren in other areas and one that would present their voices to the outside world. After the Hopkins sessions were finished, Duran took the tapes to his hometown in western Belize. For the next five years, Duran took the raw voices and percussion and recorded layers of instruments, tightened the structures of the compositions and added subtle effects and elements of ambiance to capture the context in which the music is often heard. He invited various members of the Garifuna Collective, an all-star, multi-generational lineup of musicians who are devoted to bringing Garifuna music in new directions, to lay down guitar, bass and sax parts, although Duran himself played extensively throughout the album as well. On the song Uruwei (The King), for example, Duran layered bluesy guitar parts under the acapella voices of two women he had originally recorded in 1997. Working at home late at night, playing softly so as not to wake his wife and neighbors, Duran experimented with different guitar sounds, and eventually added in the sound of the hammock on his veranda rocking gently with the soft rhythms of ocean waves in the background. I wanted to give the sense of one of those old blues recordings from Alan Lomax, where youre in the living room and you hear people playing. It gives the song a sense of intimacy. Barbana Yagien (Take Me Away) features the intricate, soukous -flavored guitar work of Eduardo Guayo Cedeo, a virtuoso guitarist from Honduras who played most of the lead guitar parts on Umalali. Silvia Blanco sings to a lover, begging him to take her away from the village to a better life. Take me away from here, my Brother. Give me some luck. Give me some life. On Anaha Ya (Here I Am), Duran asked Guayo to provide a driving Jimi Hendrix-style groove under the emphatic vocals of Honduran singer Marcela Chela Torres. She sings of a woman who reads in the newspaper of rumors that she is selling her own daughter into prostitution. It is all over the newspapers on the streets. Rumors that I am selling my daughter. Come to me, my child, I have appointed you. You will be the one to console me. During 2008, a rotating selection of women who participated in the Umalali recording will be invited to tour as special guests with Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective on their international concerts around the world. Meanwhile, back in Belize, members of the Collective will be working to create an Umalali performing ensemble that will bring the full expression of the recording project to stages across the world in 2009. Lavishly packaged with a deluxe digipack and expansive 36-page booklet, that features full lyrics, detailed song descriptions and gorgeous photographs, Umalali: The Garifuna Womens Project also includes extensive bonus material. The enhanced CD includes numerous bonus tracks, photographs, videos and links to a fascinating custom website that tells the story of the Garifuna people and in-depth information on the making of this truly remarkable project.