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The Story Behind Canalón de Timbiqui’s ‘La Casa de la Compañía’

By 02 May, 2019

Canalón de Timbiqui released their latest album, De Mar y Río, last month. As with previous albums, it contains a mixture of traditional songs from the Timbiqui region near Colombia’s Pacific coast where the group hail from, as well as original songs written by the group’s lead singer Nidia Góngora.

With Canalón de Timbiqui, as well as other ventures including selling the local spirit viche and teaching children from her community about their musical traditions, Góngora is continuing in the footsteps of her mother Doña Oliva. Her family have been especially important in maintaining the musical traditions of Timbiqui, where rhythms such as currulao, alabao and juga reveal syncretic traditions, with the worship of Catholic saints and idols sitting alongside songs about nature, their everyday lives and African ancestry.

On the second single from De Mar y Río, “La Casa de la Compañía”, we get an insight into the history of Timbiqui, how it became a focus of mining corporations in the mid-20th Century and how the relationship developed between these corporations and the local community. After speaking to her mother, a fellow singer who also sings on the new Canalón de Timbiqui album, here is Nidia to explain the story behind “La Casa de la Compañía”:

“From the middle of the 20th Century, up to the 1970s, there was a big wooden house with a zinc roof in the La Cabecera neighbourhood of Santa Bárbara in Timbiqui, Cauca. That house had the biggest hall in the area, which is why they celebrated the December holidays and saints days there.

They called that house ‘La Casa de la Compañía’ [the company house] because it had been seized by the state from a French mining company that for many years dug for gold in Timbiqui.

On 24th December 1955, Christmas was being celebrated in the house at a fiesta paid for by the mayor’s office, and when it got late Marcos Perea, the owner of the only lamp powerful enough to light up the party [a Petromax lamp], left, leaving the place in complete darkness.

So Nicomedes Balanta, father of Germán Balanta and Rebeca Balanta and grandfather of Mercedes Castillo, a traditional musician and member of the community, wrote this song, using the juga rhythm [to mark this occasion].”

Canalón de Timbiqui’s De Mar y Río is released by Llorona Records, and is available on Bandcamp.

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