Quantic and His Combo Barbaro @ The Barbican — 24th June

By 27 June, 2010

“Who likes cumbia?”

Right from the start it was clear that Quantic and his Combo Barbaro (a group of Cuban, Colombian and Peruvian musicians) had come to get everyone dancing. That conga player Freddy Colorado also managed to start a conga line in The Barbican’s main hall shows how much more they managed to achieve. It was the second song that really did the damage; “Panama City” off the Quantic Soul Orchestra’s Tropidelico album. It’s irresistible funk guitar line instantly got the audience on their feet, and highlighted one of the main qualities behind Quantic’s success. That is primarily that all of his songs are built on a solid rhythm section, and from there can go in a number of directions. Hence, a song like “Panama City” that offered a slight-latin feel on his soul music project can here seem as Colombian as the traditional numbers that would follow.

These were accompanied by Nidia Gongorra, who came onstage in her traditional Colombian dress, and managed to communicate perfectly with the audience in her broken English and excited Spanish. She would come and go for the rest of the night, always her appearance seeming to give the band extra focus and enthusiasm, not to mention the audience who delighted in her vibrance. A mention also has to be made for Alfredito Linares, who played incredible piano on a rumba piece, and generally flourished throughout.

The middle of the concert could perhaps be seen as something of a lull. Although an appearance by Alice Russell would always be a highlight at any Quantic Soul Orchestra gig here it seemed to break the Latin American mood that had been building up all night. We suddenly took a shift from the sunshine of Colombia’s Pacific Coast to the after-hours of a Detroit soul club. Two songs featuring Russell were followed by Undelivered Letter, a lush, cinematic highlight from the Combo Barbaro’s album Tradition in Transition, but one that had the audience cemented in their seats.

It is very possible though that the band was simply saving its energy, as the final third of the concert was nothing short of electric. The sound of cumbia came to the fore, Nidia Gongorra came back to rapturous applause and Freddy Colorado came into his own; he led the conga line down the Barbican’s aisles before jumping atop two of his congas while playing a third conga in something of a one-man conga pyramid that got the trumpet player so anxious he had to come over and steady the man’s legs, all the while shouting “do you like cumbia?” to the audience. Truth is, I’m not sure how many people were interested in cumbia at the start of the night, but after this performance it was clear they more than just liked it.

Quantic and His Combo Barbaro will be playing all over Europe this summer – details of dates are here.

Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.