January 20, 2008 / 11:42 PM / 12 years ago

Belizean musician Andy Palacio dies

BELIZE CITY (Reuters) - Belizean musician Andy Palacio, who brought the world the music of the Garifuna people descended from Central American natives and shipwrecked African slaves, has died aged 47.

Palacio was one of the world’s most prominent defenders of the unique Garifuna culture and language. His band “The Garifuna Collective,” played an upbeat dance music called Punta Rock, based on traditional Garifuna rhythms and infused with synthetic beats and keyboards.

He died on Saturday after a series of massive strokes, a heart attack and respiratory failure. He will be buried next week in the coastal village of Barranco where he was born.

Palacio toured the world last year promoting his album “Watina,” which won international accolades. UNESCO named him an “Artist of Peace” for his work promoting Garifuna traditions.

Descendants of Arawak Indians and African slaves who were shipwrecked near a Caribbean island in 1635, the Garifuna were deported to Honduras in 1797 by the British. They soon spread to the coasts of Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Two centuries on, numbering roughly 250,000 in Central America, they are battling to keep ancestral lands where generations of Garifuna have fished from dugout canoes, harvested food crops and woven baskets from local vines.

Palacio sang in the Garifuna language, a blend of many linguistic influences, and served as a cultural ambassador for the former British colony.

To hear Andy Palacio's music: www.myspace.com/andypalacio

Reporting by Stewart Krohn, writing by Mica Rosenberg, Editing by Chris Wilson

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