Colombian Coastal Fire

Pacifico Colombiano: Adventures in Afro-Colombia
Pacifico Colombiano: Adventures in Afro-Colombia (Otrabanda Records OTB09, 2008)

The Colombian port city of Buenaventura is an entry point for many goods into the country’s Pacific coast, including, naturally, music. Sounds from all over the Caribbean and such major immigrant centers as New York City have found their way in, not only fueling Colombia’s salsa scene but also creating something of a backlash that gave a new push to existing African-rooted fusions. Once the predominance of salsa as Colombia’s most popular dance music began to wane, other forms with older origins began to get their due. There was [wiki:cumbia], of course, along with more rural styles based on indigenous music and rhythms such as [wiki:currulao] that were pretty much undiluted from their African origins.

Some fiercely good salsa and cumbia-based tracks are to be found on Pacifico Colombiano, but an equally high level of quality stems from songs that trace more of a direct line to Africa in their rhythms and recurring use of marimba as lead instrument. Percussion-and-chant pieces by Grupo Socavon and Grupo Naidy provide hypnotic interludes between the salsa/cumbia straddling Grupo Saboreo, the sensual funk of Liliana Montes and a jazzy number by La Revuelta that hints at what Cal Tjader might have sounded like if he’d ever swapped his vibraphone for a marimba.

The rather obligatory-seeming hip hop track by Choc Quib Town is just okay (be sure to check out the clever lyrics in the extensive liner notes, though), while percolating pieces from Markitos y La Sabrosa de Buenaventura and F.P. Barrio Nuevo feel like they could fill a dance floor anywhere. More and more Afro-Colombian music is becoming available as interest in it continues to rise, and this stunning collection shows what a very good thing that is.

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