Umalali, the Garifuna word for "voice," is a musical ensemble that gives extraordinary testimony to the resilience of a unique culture and particularly its women. Many have heard how Africans brought to the New World in 1635 to be sold into slavery were shipwrecked off the coast of St Vincent in the eastern Caribbean. These Africans were absorbed into the indigenous Carib Indian population, and in the process created a unique culture that four centuries later was recognized by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity."
Fast forward to 1997. A young record producer in Belize observed that in the Garifuna community, it was the women who carried on the teaching of the language, the women who knew more songs than the men, and the women who wrote more songs than the men. Along with his musical companion the late Andy Palacio, record producer Ivan Duran determined to seek out and record the best female singers they could find. Thus Umalali was born. Ivan spent 5 years researching and collecting stories the women would sing to him. He spent another 5 years in the studio crafting a sound that would respect the tradition while embracing the future. The result is a recording that captures the beauty and power of Garifuna female expression. With singers from diverse Garifuna communities in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala, Umalali was initially recorded in homes, seaside shacks, festivals and other settings. Women of all ages, many of whom had never been recorded before, were invited to take part in these ground-breaking sessions with Andy Palacio and members of the Garifuna Collective.
The result is UMALALI, a moving and inspirational group and album that pays tribute to the rich heritage carried in the voices of Garifuna women. Their powerful voices and call-and-response format draw the listener in, with captivating and engaging rhythms and the wonderful sounds of the Garifuna language.