Choc Quib Town reinvent Colombian folklore before taking a trip across Europe01 April, 2010
On 3 May 2010 Choc Quib Town released their first international release Oro, a collection of two albums previously issued in Colombia. It seems word has got out about their modern take on Afro-Colombian music. They have already received a Grammy nomination, played at South by Southwest (Austin, Texas) and in India and Europe, but now they plan to take over the European festival circuit with a number of performances this summer.
Choc Quib Town – the core of which comprises MCs Goyo, Tostao and Slow – were founded in 2000 in Chocó, a province in northwestern Colombia, on the Pacific coast next to Panama. They all lived in the capital Quibdó at the time. ‘That’s where the name of the band comes from,’ says front woman Goyo. ‘We wanted to honour our region and use both the English and Spanish languages.’ In the sweltering rain-forested region, more than 80% of the population is African by origin. Moreover, the region’s relative isolation means that their African music has been well preserved. It is these Afro-Colombian rhythms that Choc Quib Town mixes organically with hip-hop, funk, dance hall, electronics and Caribbean flavours to create their own unique urban style.
Tostao: ‘The youth are no longer interested in folklore. They listen to it, but treat it as ‘grandma’s music’. To the youth, it’s all about reggaeton. But we want to honour that folklore by redefining it. Our work is an ode to the music of the Pacific coast, from seen from our perspective, our frame of reference. And that is hip-hop.’ Their big hit ‘De Donde Vengo Yo’ is, for example, an irresistible mixture of the bambazú rhythm and Jamaican dancehall. ‘Oro’, a song in which slavery plays a central role, is clearly a currulao, with its slow, sensual rhythm and accompanied by African marimbas (wooden xylophones).
Their hit and first single of the European album ‘El Bombo’, with its infectious refrain, combines currulao, chirimía and ragga. Spreading those ‘black’ rhythms beyond the borders of their region is an important mission for the band. Goyo: ‘Many people didn’t know the music of the Pacific coast. There is such a wealth of rhythms and they blend perfectly with other styles.’ Tostao adds: ‘Even outside Colombia, the music is often lost among the things people tend to associate our country: cocaine, coffee, salsa, cumbia. People don’t know much about this “Africa within Colombia”. We rap about a Colombia that you don’t see on TV.’
In their own country, these local heroes of Choc Quib Town – who have since relocated to Bogotá – have a huge following. They have collaborated with groups such as Aterciopelados, Sidestepper, Banda La Republica, salsaband La 33 and French hip-hop maestro Oxmo Puccino. They also shared the stage with Orishas, Segent Garcia en Sean Paul. In 2008, the group was nominated for a number of Premios Shock – Columbia’s national music awards – and a couple years later they were nominated as the best newcomers at the Latin Grammies.
World Connection released Oro on 3 May in the UK. The band will now be showcasing the album at festivals in Europe this spring and summer. In an energetic, vigorous live set with a lot of room for improvisation, the three MCs are joined by drummer Andrés Zea, bassist Alex Sánchez, guitarist Juan González and Larry Viveros on traditional
Afro-Colombian percussion instruments like the tambora (bastrom), congas, djembé and marimba.
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