Monday, July 7, 2014

12 O'Clock Track: 'Cumbia Africana,' killer Afro-Colombian grooves from Son Palenque

Posted By on 07.07.14 at 12:00 PM

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In recent years the fertile imagination and syncretist impulses of Afro-Colombian music—a dynamic sound that emerged during the 70s when local rhythms collided with sounds gleaned from imported African pop—has been receiving its due acclaim. Colombia's ubiquitous cumbia sound figures heavily in the mix, but the throbbing polyrhythms of West Africa define this raw dance music, where call-and-response chants and shuffling hand percussion, occasionally enhanced by lean guitar figures or sleek horn charts, cast deeply hypnotic spells. The stripped-down sound purveyed by Son Palenque—a group that emerged form Cartagena but had roots in San Basilio de Palenque, the fulcrum of Afro-Colombian culture—was a crucial influence in the creation of champeta music, a more explicit, fleshed-out manifestation of the African influence in Colombia. The Spanish label Vampisoul recently released Afro-Colombian Sound Modernizers, an ebullient 20-track anthology of Son Palenque's recordings from the 70s and 80s (the group reunited in 1999 to record a track with the brilliant Guinean guitarist Sekou Diabate of Bembeya Jazz, and has continued on ever since), and it crackles with infectious energy. The new collection opens with today's 12 O'Clock Track,"Cumbia Africana," which lays out the stuttering beat of cumbia right next to a scratchy guitar lick that belongs on a Fela Kuti record.

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