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    Garifuna All Star Band performs in Asia | July 2002
Andy Palacio & The Garifuna All Star Band
First performance in Asia

Andy Palacio and the band took the fifth annual Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival, held July 12th to the 14th, by storm, and closed the event with a performance that a festival organizer called “absolutely one of the best we've ever seen”.

The Sarawak, Malaysia, festival is one of the most prestigious world music events, and Andy and the Garifuna All Stars were headliners and by all accounts the most popular band during the three-day festival. Their performance Saturday night electrified the audience to the point that many people were jumping up on to the stage to dance with the group, and the MC had to caution people on the balcony to refrain from dancing so wildly.

While in Malaysia, the group also presented the Sarawak Minister of Tourism with a letter of friendship and gifts from his Belizean counterpart, Hon Mark Espat. The Sarawak Minister responded with a letter of his own, and the gift of a Malaysian Sape, a hand-carved traditional string instrument.

The Garifuna All Star Band features seventy-four year old Paul Nabor, Punta Rock star Andy Palacio, and the best of Belize’s musicians and dancers.

Paul Nabor presented the letter of friendship and gifts on behalf of Minister Espat. The exchange gained widespread media attention, with band members appearing on the front page of two daily newspapers and on television. Malaysian Minister Dato Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that Sarawak and Belize had many things in common, and he invited Minister Espat and a Belizean delegation to visit Malaysia.

“Through music and songs, we can better understand your cultures and history, and like wise,” he told the band members.

Belize’s band played to wild applause Saturday night, beginning with an acoustic set led by Nabor and punctuated with Garifuna drumming. Andy Palacio then took the front position and shifted gear with an electrifying performance that included hits such as Viva el Caribe, Wata and Til da mawnin!. He closed the set with Roots, with the stage packed with festival goers and members of other bands dancing wildly and leading the audience in an exuberant sing along.

After the set, the festival organizers asked the band to lead the closing ceremonies on Sunday night. Andy acted as party leader and established a heady pace, introducing selected members from other bands and musicians to create an impromptu super group that had the crowd dancing well past closing time.

The audience was particularly responsive when Paul Nabor, the oldest musician at the festival, walked on stage hand in hand with the youngest performer, a six year old Malaysian drummer in traditional costume. The crowd went wild, and organizer Jean Cristophe Robles said, “This sums up the spirit of the festival it’s what world music is all about.”

All Star Drummer Ryan “Skull” Flores, also known for his work with the Punta Rebels, was also prominent throughout the festival. He joined another popular group, Mata O’Oa from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) as drummer during part of their set, and performed in full Rapa Nui warrior costume, with feathers, face paint and grass skirt. At the close of the festival he, Joel Coleman and Denmark Flores provided the beat for musicians from Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, Australia and other parts of the globe, while Belize National Dance Company Director Greg Vernon and members Rosa Baltasar and Diane Palacio provided a focus for dancing and Dale Davis managed to tie everything together with his stack of keyboards.

At the end of the festival, organizer Robles called the band the hardest working group of the festival and thanked them for their participation. “It doesn't get much better than you,’ he said.
 
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