We love world music here at Azimo, so we asked some of our Colombian customers and colleagues to pick out the nation’s best musicians – from Choc Quib Town’s hip hop to Carlos Vives’s modern vallenato.
The king of modern vallenato, Carlos Vives was born in 1961 and moved to Bogotá at the age of 12. He put out his first album, Por Fuera y Por Dentro, in 1986 and has been mixing traditional vallenato folk and catchy pop beats ever since. In 2016, 30 years after breaking on to the scene, Vives won a lifetime Excellence Award at the Lo Nuestro awards in Miami. He’s definitely earned the glory, having sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. He was also the first Colombian artist to win a Grammy, 2002’s Best Tropical Album for Déjame Entrar, and picked up another in 2015 for Más + Corazón Profundo. By the way, Carlos is currently in London, gearing up for his sold out concert at Brixton O2 Academy on the 31st March.
Bogotá-based Bomba got together in 2005 and have found fame fast, rocking the stage with none other than Will Smith at the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas last year. The group started out as an instrumental outfit led by producer Simon Mejia. But after the release of their first album, Vol. 1, singer Liliana ‘Li’ Saumet mixed her vocals in with the maracas and Bomba’s ‘badass party’ sound was born. The band’s influences include Colombian folklore, Atlantic coastal, electronic, African and even a little hip hop and reggae. Just try and keep your feet still.
Sidestepper started off as the pet project of UK producer Richard Blair in the mid-1990s, making dance tunes that mixed London drum ’n’ bass with Latin sounds and breaks. When Blair was working for world music whizz Peter Gabriel in the early ’90s, he produced a record with Colombian legend Totó La Momposina. He went off to Colombia to work with her in 1993 and hasn’t looked back. Blair’s inspiration for Sidestepper came from the great orquestas of Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Africa – he wanted to create a dance band with hand drums, seeds, shakers, kalimbas, flutes and guitar driving the vocals. The result is a style that feels solid and rooted.
Alt rock innovators Aterciopelados are made up of Héctor Buitrago and Andrea Echeverri, who first teamed up in Bogotá during the early 1990s. They went their separate solo ways a few years ago, but got back together in 2014 to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the band with a tour and new studio album (due out in late 2016). They’re rock en español royalty, fusing rock riffs with traditional Latin rhythms, and they’ve got a Latin Grammy in the trophy cabinet to prove it. They’ve even performed in front of UN bigwigs thanks to their work on issues such as political injustice, women’s rights and environmental destruction.
Choc Quib Town
Named after the western city (Quibdó) and department (Chocó) where they grew up, Choc Quib Town is made up of rappers Tostao, Goyo and Slow – a three-piece Afro-Colombian tropical hip hop outfit. The group’s big break came in 2004, when they won best band at Bogotá’s Hip Hop al Parque festival and picked up enough pesos to release their debut album, Somos Pacífico, in 2006 to huge critical acclaim. A decade later and they’re still going strong – they picked up a Latin Grammy in 2015 for Best Tropical Fusion Album for El Mismo, and the Cuando Te Veo track off the album topped the Colombian charts.
Totó La Momposina
At the ripe old age of 75, you’d understand if national treasure Totó La Momposina had chosen to put the mic down and put her feet up by now. Not a chance. The queen of Colombian folklore music – or musica de antes as she prefers to call it – first found global acclaim in 1982 when she appeared at world music festival WOMAD, and she was back on stage in 2015. Her influences come straight out of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where African, indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures mingle to create a unique musical tradition. Totó’s breakthrough work was La Candela Viva in 1993, which has since come to be recognised as one of Colombia’s essential albums.