The Grupo Cimarrón ensemble is known for their explosive música llanera (plains music) and fast-paced, triple-meter joropo. They live up to the meaning of their name Cimarrón: “wild bull.”
Since creating Grupo Cimarrón in 1986, leader and harpist Carlos Rojas has looked both backward and forward in time. The música llanera and joropo have roots in 19th-century Colombia, and the style of singing, playing and instruments used have been carefully modeled on tradition. The ensemble has created a new mix by emphasizing rhythm and creativity and insisting that joropo dance be a part of the performance wherever possible. Grupo Cimarrón has performed in China, Europe, and North and South America.
Harp, guitars (bandola and cuatro), maracas, wooden box drum (cajón) and the rhythm of the dancers’ feet are the instruments used by the high-energy Grupo Cimarrón, all of whom carry strong ties to the cattle country of the Colombian plains. Each band member is a virtuoso in his or her own discipline, and the albums provides a medium for both collective and individual expression.
The group’s 2004 Smithsonian Folkways release Sí, Soy Llanero earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional World Album.
Guitarist and singer-songwriter Mónica Giraldo was born in Bogotá, Colombia. She studied music at Universidad de los Andes in her hometown and later studied further at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA.
Since her return to Colombia, she recorded several albums: Muy Cerca (Very Close) in 2005 with Producer Felipe Álvarez (Polen Records); Todo da Vueltas (Everything Turns) in 2008 with Producer Mauricio Pantoja and independent label Codiscos, which earned her a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2008 Latin Grammys.
She also released Que venga la vida (Let life come) with Polen Records in 2014, and Bajo el mismo cielo (Under The Same Sky) in 2017, co-produced by Giraldo, Mauricio Pantoja and Andrés Peláez.
Mónica Giraldo has collaborated with various artists in various albums, such as Mestizajes with the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra in 2010, La Voz de mi Padre (My Father’s Voice) in 2011, and in Café Latino and Café del Mundo by Putumayo Records in 2013-2014. Her performing career includes venues in Colombia, Mexico, USA, France, and Japan among others.
Mónica Giraldo is a woman strolling two paths. The first one is taking her deeper and deeper into the soul of Colombian music, surrounded by the energy of her native land’s traditional rhythms such as cumbia and bullerengue. The other one leads her out and away, enjoying melodies and harmonies from the world.
Sonia Bazanta Vides, better known as Totó La Momposina, is a remarkable singer and dancer. She has earned respect and admiration in many parts of the world for the power and spontaneity of her performance. Drawing on the music and dance of the Colombian Caribbean, her work is rooted and inspired by a rich cultural mix that combines elements from African, indigenous and Spanish traditions.
On stage, Totó’s dynamic set of songs and dances is accompanied by a range of traditional instruments, but she also performs with three generations of her own family, her daughter Eurídice, and her granddaughter, María del Marpero, both of whom also since and dance. Totó presents rhythms from Colombia’s Caribbean coast alongside Cuban son, guaracha, rumba and bolero.
Totó La Momposina was born in the small village of Talaigua, on the island of Mompos, in Colombia’s Atlantic coast, off the Great Magdalene River. This island was at one time a sanctuary to fugitive African slaves from Cuba. As a result, Totó La Momposina’s music, like most of the music from the Caribbean, is heavily influenced by African music in addition to its European and indigenous roots. Born into a family of musicians spanning 5 generations, Totó learned to sing and dance as a child. She used to sing a cappella at parties and festivities in Colombia.
As a young woman, Totó traveled from village to village researching the lore of her people. She became a cantadora. A cantadora (singer) is more than someone who sings songs. It means she has a certain social position of responsibility. Traditionally cantadoras grow yucca, plantain and pumpkins on their land. They supply marital advice and herbal medicine, prepare authentic foods and drinks and participate and sing traditional music in its original form at public functions.
Totó has been performing cumbia music professionally for over thirty years. The music is the result of the fused influences of her culture. It is music to be appreciated, but also, as she is quick to remind her audiences, it is music which should be danced.
Her performances are a living catalog of the traditional music and dances found in the Caribbean. Totó La Momposina and her ensemble Sus Tambores, (her drummers) perform more than 10 styles of Caribbean music. During the course of their show, elements of cumbia, gaita, porro, bullerenge, garabato, mapale and chalupa are performed.
On stage she performs the songs the villagers sing to accompany them while they perform their chores. Her song Pilandera for example is a song with a rhythm that is used to pace the pounding of corn. Another song contains lyrics which are meant to break the monotony of scrubbing cloths in the river.
Rapidly gaining a reputation for her impressive voice and presence she began to appear outside Colombia in the 1970s touring everywhere with her 12-piece band in a conscious effort to preserve her people’s music. “I feel a brotherhood with the drums from Senegal and Cuba,” she says. “They play a universal language with which Colombians are well acquainted.” In 1991 WOMAD took her to Europe and she performed at their festival. Since that period, she is still performing all other the world.
In 2011 she received the National Life and Work Award from the Ministry of Culture of Colombia. In 2013, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Grammy.
Colombian percussionist and composer Samuel Torres was born September 4, 1976 in Bogotá, Colombia. He has toured with Arturo Sandoval, and has played with renowned jazz artists such as the late Tito Puente, Chick Corea, Poncho Sanchez, and more.
On his debut album Skin Tones, Torres created a world of sweet sounds with his original compositions. Utilizing the seminal rhythms of his homeland, a long-standing love of song and melody, and the sounds of his conga drums and other percussion instruments, he enriched his passion for African and Cuban rhythms with a knowledge of classical composition, elements of jazz and improvisation, and a lifetime of listening.
He has recorded with Alejandro Sanz, Sarah Aroeste, Lara Bello, Lila Downs, The Chieftains, Edmar Castañeda, Richard Bona, and Shakira.
Petrona Martínez was Born January 27, 1939 in San Cayetano, Colombia. She is one of the most important Afro-Colombian artists in Caribbean Colombia. She learned the bullerengue in an spontaneous manner, very early in her life. All the songs are composed by her. In all of them there is a piece of hard and difficult life but full of magic.
Petrona knows the prayers to give farewell to the dead and she works as a midwife to welcome the new born.
In 1999, then 62 years old, she became Colombia’s maximum representative of pure folk music. The album “El Bullerengue” that contains a sample of wake songs was published by the French label Ocora. Later, she released in Colombia “La vida vale la pena”, where the life of a peasant dedicated to the extraction of sand of the stream to be able to subsist is told. All this with a deep rhythm, contagious and vital.
Marta Gómez started her musical studies at the age of six in her native Colombia when she entered the Liceo Benalcazar choir, becoming its soloist for ten years. In 1993 Marta moved to the capital of her country to continue her musical studies at the Javeriana University before entering the Berklee College of Music in 1999.
In 2001 Marta recorded a self-titled CD and in 2003 she released Solo es vivir, chosen by The Boston Globe as one of the 10 best albums of the year. Marta not only traverses a whole range of Colombian cumbias and bambucos, Argentine zambas, Cuban sones and Peruvian landos but she also writes the kind of melodies and refrains that translate across whatever language she is singing in.
Marta Gomez and her group perform a repertoire composed entirely of original songs based on a fascinating variety of rhythms from all over Latin America including Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina mixed with jazz and pop elements.
Originally from Colombia, the singer started to compose songs exploring her roots, but when she met Argentine musicians Julio Santillan, Franco Pinna and Fernando Huergo, (Los Changos) they decided to share their musical backgrounds to create a distinctive blend of music that reflects the sound and culture of South America.
Colombian musical prodigy Edmar Castañeda was born March 31, 1978 in Bogotá, Colombia. He began playing the difficult and exotic Colombian harp at the early age of 13.
Although he only completed his formal music education in 2003, he has achieved critical acclaim. He has appeared as an invited guest with Paquito D’Rivera at NJPAC, NY’s Beacon Theatre, Lincoln Center and the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. He has also performed with Lila Downs, Romero Lubambo, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentin, Richard Bona and John Benitez.
In 2017, Japanese pianist Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda performed live at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival. The concert was recorded and Live in Montreal was released in late in 2017. “We both clearly remember the first few minutes of playing together in soundcheck,” Hiromi recalled. “It was really magical and effortless. It felt like all the musical notes that we created were happy to be together. It was like dancing.”
Since her arrival in NY in 1994, the singer Lucía Pulido has mined the rich musical traditions of her native Colombia in her ongoing search for new and distinct musical possibilities, incorporating different elements from contexts as varied as jazz, contemporary music, and chamber music. This has initiated a host of different projects.
In 1996, in collaboration with the composer Ivan Benavides and the pianist Hector Martignon, she inaugurated the first stage of her New York experience: an ensemble of original and traditional compositions that effortlessly combined elements of Latin jazz with popular Colombian rhythms. Also participating on the project was the drummer and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi with whom she was to initiate a very fruitful collaboration in the years to come.
After a brief period of reworking and interpreting traditional themes which culminated in Fiesta de Tambores, Lucia and Satoshi unveiled a more ambitious project, the critically acclaimed Cantos Religiosos y Paganos de Colombia, blending contemporary chamber music with ancestral songs and percussion, released on the Intuition label.
In addition to this avant garde style, she also sings arrangements of traditional Colombian songs from various regions which tend to maintain elements of traditional music alongside urban experimentalism, as well as compositions and arrangements especially written for her by Latin American composers such as Ivan Benavides , Sebastian Cruz and Fernando Tarres”.
Lucía Pulido (Religious and Pagan songs from Colombia) (Intuition Records, 2001) Dolor de Ausencia (2006) Waning Moon – Luna Menguante (Adventure Music, 2008)
Songbook I – Beliefs, with Fernando Tarrés and La Raza (BAU Records)
Songbook II – Prayer, with Fernando Tarrés and La Raza (BAU Records)
Songbook III – Myths, with Fernando Tarrés (BAU Records)
Por esos caminos – Journeying (Ojo Música, 2011)
Representing the best of Colombia’s Afro-Indigenous culture, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, musical heirs to gaita music. They have been performing together for more than 50 years. Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto are masters of Colombia’s puya and porro music as well as gaita corrida. The gaita ensemble consists of two duct-flutes called gaitas (not to be confused with the Spanish gaita, which is a bagpipe), a maraca, and three drums and may contain a singer. The gaita, a wind instrument fashioned from wood, beeswax and a feather, has indigenous origins.
Los Gaiteros were created in the 1950s and now span several generations of musicians. Ranging from 60 to 85 years of age, these artists have single-handedly saved this cultural legacy, dedicating their entire lives to performing and transmitting their knowledge throughout Colombia. The music transcends social, political, and cultural boundaries making Los Gaiteros one of the best interpreters of the beauty and complexity of Colombian culture.
The vibrations of the African drums, the haunting sounds of Indigenous flutes, and the nostalgia of Spanish melodies, created what is now known as gaita, a unique sound emerging from centuries of mixing of three cultures: African slaves, indigenous groups, and Spanish settlers.
In November 2007 the band received a Best Folk Album Latin Grammy for the album Un fuego de sangre pura. Later, in 2012, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto’s album Así tocan los indios received the colombian Premio Shock award for best folk album .
In 2014 the band collaborated with Diego Gómez and English producer Adrian Sherwood to release the experimental recording Dub de gaita.
Emanating from El Choco, in Colombia’s western coast, Grupo Niche has made a profound impact on the region’s salsa scene since their inception in 1981. Led for many years by percussionist, arranger, vocalist and musical director Jairo Varela, Niche not only rose to the top ranks of Colombia’s salsa bands, but rival its counterparts in Puerto Rico and New York.
Inspired by the legendary 1960s Colombian coastal band, Peregoyo y su Combo Vacano, Niche’s big band varies in size, including large brass and rhythm sections.
In addition to breaking ground in the musical and lyrical structure of salsa bands, Grupo Niche raises social awareness within young salseros from Latin America through its approach to social and ethnic expressions and all their implications, conquering a new space in the national as well as in the international market.
Jairo Varela died in Cali on August 8, 2012.
Al Pasito (Daro, 1979)
Querer es Poder (Codiscos, 1981)
Prepárate… (Codiscos, 1982)
Directo Desde New York! (Codiscos, 1983)
No Hay Quinto Malo (Codiscos, 1984)
Triunfo (Codiscos, 1985)
Me Huele a Matrimonio (Codiscos, 1986)
Con Cuerdas (1987)
Tapando el Hueco (Codiscos, 1988)
Sutil y Contundente (Codiscos, 1989) Cielo de Tambores (Codiscos, 1990)
Llegando al 100% (Codiscos, 1991) Un Alto en el Camino (Sony Music, 1993)
Huellas del Pasado (Sony Music, 1995) Etnia (Sony Music, 1996)
A Prueba de Fuego (Sony Music, 1997)
Señales de Humo (Sony Music, 1998)
Lo Mejor (1998)
A Golpe de Folklore (Big Ear Music, 1999)
La Danza de la Chancaca (2001)
Control Absoluto (2002) Imaginación (2004)
Tocando El Cielo con Las Manos (2013)
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion