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Global Ear: Cartagena

February 2019

Palenque Records founder Lucas Silva selects some of his favourite tracks from the Afro-Colombian sound of champeta

In the 1960s and 70s, a sound system culture referred to as picó developed in Colombia. As well as spinning variations on traditional Latin music, the systems also played out soukous and highlife, introduced by the African diaspora. By the 80s the two styles had compounded into what is now referred to as champeta, named after the working class communities in which it developed.

Based in the port of Cartagena, home to a large Afro-Colombian community, Palenque Records has been championing the champeta sound for over 20 years. Its founder Lucas Silva, aka DJ Champetaman, took time to compile some of his favourite champeta tracks from his own imprint and others.

“Since the mid 1990s, Palenque Records have been actively promoting the Afro-Colombian music and culture,” says the label head. “Palenque artists, such as Son Palenque, Abelardo Carbono, Sexteto Tabala, Batata Y Su Rumba Palenquera, and Colombiafrica The Mystic Orchestra, are all living testimonies of how much Africa has influenced traditional music in Colombia. They have developed a remarkable culture, collaborating with African musicians such as Diblo Dibala or Bopol Mansiamina. Most of them are considered to be the precursors of champeta, a unique musical genre setting its roots in West African soukous and folklore.

“This music is the origin of the very interesting picó sound system culture of the Caribbean coast of Colombia,” he continues. “The Afro-Colombian legacy is also represented by other artists such as Gualajo, known for their marimba playing skills, typical instrument of the currulao music from the Pacific coast of Colombia.”

Colombiafrica The Mystic Orchestra
“Mama Africa”
From Voodoo Love Inna Champeta-Land
(Riverboat)

A union of stars of African music, specifically from Congo, with the best champeta artists from Afro-Colombia, a big dream come true through thanks to music. Released by UK’s Riverboat Records in 2007.

DJ Pulpo
“El Vacilon Del Faraón”
From Profecias Del Emperador Bantú
(Chusma)

This tune is a guarapo, a subgenre of champeta. Guarapos are remixes made by sound system DJs, just for champeta parties in the Afro-Colombian ghettos. Faraón Bantu is the original Palenque Records sound system.

Batata Y Su Rumba Palenquera
“Macaco Mata El Toro”

From Radio Bakongo
(Network Medien)

Paulino Salgado Batata was one of the first popular percussionists in Afro-Colombian music. This tune comes from his last album, Radio Bakongo. This is what I call champeta roots, a kind of music more linked to our traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms, but a very strong influence on popular African music, rhythms such as soukous and highlife.

DJ Rata Piano
“La Bala De Cianuro (Bleepolar Edit)”
From Palenque Records AfroColombia Remix Vol​ ​2
(Galletas Calientes)

A new remix by DJ Rata, the deejay star from the sound systems of Barranquilla.

Colombiafrica Orchestra & Louis Towers
“Mama Africa (Busy Twist Remix)”
From Palenque Records AfroColombia Remix Vol​ ​2
(Galletas Calientes)

New version of the Colombiafrica Orchestra classic tune, a great remix by London's Busy Twist crew, this time in the Afrobeats new style from Nigeria, featuring singer Zongo Abongo from Ghana.

Abelardo Carbono
“El Son De La Vaca”
From El Son De La Vaca
(Palenque)

New single by Abelardo Carbono, the godfather of champeta, and the pioneer of Afrobeat and psychedelia in Colombia.

Louis Towers
“El Liso En Olaya”
From Champeta Criolla Vol New African Music From Colombia
(Palenque)

Classic tune by Louis Towers, together with Colombiafrica The Mystic Orchestra. Recorded between Paris and Colombia, featuring Diblo Dibala (guitar) and Ocean (vocals) from Congo.

Batata Y Su Rumba Palenquera
“Ataole”
From Batata Y Su Rumba Palenquera
(Palenque)

Great tune by Paulino Salgado Batata, in an Afrobeat influenced track, recorded and produced in 1999 in Bogota, Colombia.

Magic System
“1er Gaou (Sargento Garcia Y Champetaman Remix)”
From Faraon Bantu Sound System: Profecias Del Emperador Bantu
(Palenque)

Remix of the famous tune “1er Gaou” from Magic System from the Ivory Coast, by Sargento Garcia and DJ Champetaman.

Viviano Torres featuring Dally Kimoko & Hadya Koyaute
“Zarandia Champeta”
From Voodoo Love Inna Champetaland
(Palenque)

Another great tune from Colombiafrica The Mystic Orchestra, featuring Hadya Koyaute from Conakry in Guinea and Dally Kimoko on guitar, from Congo.

Abelardo Carbono
“Cumbia Sampuesana (DJ Panko Remix)”

From DJ Panko: Panko Pa' Palenque/Afrocolombia Reworks
(Palenque)

New release by DJ Panko, who has remixed tracks from the Palenque Records catalogue.

Louis Towers
“El Poeta”
From Champeta Criolla Vol 2
(Palenque)

One of the best champeta singers from San Basilio de Palenque and one of the pioneers of the genre, Louis Towers.

Viviano Torres
“Mini Ku Suto (Rafa Aragon Remix)”

From Palenque Records AfroColombia Remix Vol​ 1
(Galletas Calientes)

Electro champeta at his best, in this remix by Rafa Aragon, European DJ and producer.

Son Palenque
“Pacuapa”
From Kutu Prieta Pa Saranguia
(Palenque)

This tune comes from the last Son Palenque album produced by myself, Lucas Silva, and Michi Sarmiento. “Pacuapa” is a highlife soukous tune, composed by Justo Valdez.

Abelardo Carbono Y Su Grupo
“La Piña Madura”
From La Piña Madura 7"
(Names You Can Trust)

Abelardo Carbono delivers this great Afrobeat track, together with Quantic. Recorded in Cali in Colombia in Quantic's studio.

Son Palenque featuring ‘León’ Pardo
“Adios Batata (Cerrero Dub Mix)”
From Son Palenque Featuring El "León" Pardo (Cerrero Dub Mix)
(Llorona)

Dub version of the Son Palenque classic, by Cerrero.

Read Patrick MacMahon's Global Ear report on Cartagena in The Wire 420. Subscribers can access the full article via the online archive.

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so great musiccc

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