Andy Palacio, the musician from Belize who generated unprecedented worldwide awareness about Garifuna culture and music, died in Belize on Saturday night (Jan. 19) from complications following a massive stroke a few days earlier. He was 47 years old.

Palacio had gained recent fame with his 2007 album "Wátina," nominated a BBC Radio 3 award for World Music that year. The album, released by Cumbancha Records, helped Palacio win a Womex award in October 2007. He was also named a UNESCO "Artist for Peace" last year.

With his band, the Garifuna Collective, Palacio helped raise awareness of Belize, a tiny Central American country, and the culture of the Garifuna -- also known as "Black Caribs" -- from Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.

According to a statement, Palacio had been en route to emergency care in Chicago when he fell into a coma. On Jan. 18, his family had requested that he be flown back to Belize to die in his homeland. Palacio will be honored with an official state funeral. A major tribute concert is planned in Belize City on Friday, January 25.

In a joint statement, Charlotte, VT-based Cumbancha Records president Jacob Edgar and Palacio's longtime collaborator/producer Ivan Duran said: "Words can't express the sorrow we feel at the loss of such a tremendous person and artist."

They added: "In the Garifuna culture, the death of a loved one is an opportunity to celebrate their memory and rejoice in having been blessed to have had them in your life. We feel so fortunate to have known this incredible individual and we mourn the loss of truly great man."

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