LIVE: The Garifuna Collective & Danny Michel

by Reginald Duvivier

Andy Vivian Palacio was a Belizean political activist and musician who made it his life work to spread the music and culture of the Black Diaspora in Central America before he died suddenly in 2008. Before his death he and his band, The Garifuna Collective, released “Wátina” to much critical acclaim. After Andy’s death rather than disband The Garifuna Collective trudged on working on a follow up album, which they just released, called “Ayo”.

While on tour supporting this excellent release they stopped by New York’s Highline Ballroom with Canadian singer-songwriter Danny Michel in tow. The collective had just worked on and released a collaborative album with the singer-songwriter (it’s been a busy 2013 for them). Danny Michel has a yelp that’s reminiscent of Paul Simon, but meaner guitar skills that lean more towards rock then folk. Throughout the night they would trade sets; the collective would perform a handful of songs, then backup Danny while he performed his songs.

While Danny’s songs were solid, The Garifuna Collective were the stars of the night. A mixture of Caribbean, African, and Latin sounds, the groves and melodies they laid down made standing still impossible; the bartenders and wait staff were boppin’ along. There was a heavy Belizean element in the crowd, and performer and audience would chant back and forth at each other in the Garifuna language. It felt more like a family gathering then an actual show with the performers telling private jokes to each other and just having a good old time on stage. And just like most guests invited over to someone’s house, the audience felt right at home.