analysisBy Robert Jamieson
A new compilation masterfully explores the legacy of African influences on the music of Colombia.
In 2007, Samy Ben Redjeb, founder of the Analog Africa record label, arrived in Colombia's port city of Barranquilla. Armed with several African records, he set out to gain an insight into the music of the country. The journey of this insightful compilation had begun.
It is little wonder that African genres - most obviously afrobeat - have had such an influence on Colombian music. The country is home to the second largest black population in Latin America, and the cultural and musical legacy of these communities have created a syncretic sound with unmistakable African roots.
Now, five years and thousands of records later, Analog Africa is releasing Diablos Del Ritmo, a celebration of Colombia's cultural melting pot as interpreted by Redjeb. Most of the compilation harkens back to the Afro-Colombian musical exchange of the 1970s, when vibrant Latin genres such as the traditional puya, porro, gaita, and cumbia were first combined with African rhythms, drumbeats and vocals. You only have to wait ten seconds into the first track 'El Caterate' by Wganda Kenya for suitable evidence, a group whose very name pays homage to their African influence.
The first CD of this two disc set is peppered with the afrofunk baselines championed by The Wasamaye Rock Group. The energetic Calixto Ochoa (founding member of Atlantic coastal band Los Corraleros del Majagual) appears in this compilation with his side project Los Papaupas - whose trademark lilting accordion is instantly recognisable. Abelardo Carbono's offering of 'Quiero Mi Gente' is evidence of how the percussion heavy champeta sound was born out of the Colombia/Africa exchange.
The second disc represents the traditional Latin sound of cumbia and the tropical scene it inspired - a strangely evocative mix of calypso rhythms and smoky North African catcall vocals and trumpets. These songs evoke the most vivid Africa transportations, whether through Juan Pina y sus Muchachos and his sultry instrumental offerings or the stop-start jazz infusion of J. Alvear's 'Cumbia Cincelejana'.
Diablos Del Ritmo is a rich and historic collection Afro-Colombian music, and a testament to the consistently excellent work of Analog Africa. It is a journey through 25 years of an explosive music scene, and one that perfectly illustrates how Africa's cultural influence extends far beyond its shores.
Diablos del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1985 is released on November 12 by Analog Africa.
Robert Jamieson is an English Literature graduate from the University of Sussex. He has travelled extensively through South Africa and Tanzania, where he taught English as part of a volunteer project.