Son De Pueblo
Traditional Songs and Dances from Colombia (Arc Music, 2013)
I suppose if you’re going to celebrate the music of Colombia you would want to travel to the South American country in December since according to the liner notes for Traditional Songs and Dances from Colombia performed by Son de Pueblo, “for several weeks we celebrate the joy of life...” And that joy of life in Colombia includes rousing Afro-Latin musical traditions from the plains, mountains, and the Caribbean flavored with salsa, rumba, and musical genres from throughout Latin America.
Anyone who only knows Colombia through tragic news stories involving drug trafficking or from flavorful coffee beans, needs to delve into traditional Colombian culture whether that is cuisine, traditional music or folkloric dance because this is where you find happy and contented people celebrating their regional offerings and culture heritage. The beauty of the Caribbean countries is the way African, Indigenous and European poetry, rhythms, dances, and melodies come together to create the first world music fusion (long before we even had this genre).
For instance, the folkloric instruments featured in the band Son de Pueblo hail from the Andes (quena, zampoña–flutes), charango (small mandolin instrument with an armadillo shell back), from Mexico–State of Veracruz, (the guitar-like requinto), percussion from both indigenous and African descent, and piano, bass, and guitar from Europe.
As Venezuela includes a variety of lutes and drums in its traditional songs, Colombia provides us with enticing regional polyrhythms, speed, agility, grace, and swooping vocals. In an interview with Marta Topferova for my upcoming book Whole Music, I asked the musician about the fast-playing cuatro music from this region, and she chalked it off to an effect from a coffee culture. However, what I can say is that Colombian music doesn’t need any sugar because in its natural form this music would even get a slug dancing the cumbia.
I feel exhausted (in a good way), just listening to the CD only because I couldn’t help tapping my feet and drumming along on my computer or stopping to clap my hands with the temptation to leave the review for later and just dance. Ah, if only more cities played this music on the streets, no one would have time to plan and scheme against others. But I warn you that on this particular recording you will only hear musicians play rapido and muy rapido. It will literally take your breath away.
The musicians offer us a variety of musical styles with the cumbia, salsa, and rumba standing out as the most familiar genres in the US. Since cumbia (one of the genres that pours into salsa along with Puerto Rican bomba, plena and Cuban son) hails from Colombia, we hear the raw, sizzling version here. Just listen to the delicious La Cumbia Cienaguera, Cumbia en el Arenal and Colombia Tierra Querida and you’ll satisfy your musical hunger. Need some interesting Afro-Latin polyrhythms? This band has you covered there too with regional festival music where flutes mingle with indigenous and African percussion. Some of the rhythms sway while other rhythms knock you off your feet they’re so juicy.
I’ve enjoyed this recording from start to finish with my fingers itching to press the replay button, but some highlights for me are Pájaro Campana with its quick tempo and fluttery flute, the salsa version of Moliendo Cafè, all the cumbias, the vocal harmonies over dense rhythms on El Canalete, Mi Varita and I feel like I’m including every track on this list. I need to learn more about Colombian music and I have barely scratched the surface. But for anyone who enjoys folkloric dance music, get this CD and listen to it often.
Buy Traditional Songs and Dances from Colombia in North America
Buy Traditional Songs and Dances from Colombia in Europe
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.