Vallenato, Rancheras and Ballads?
Forget about it.
Colombian music is going through a revamp revolution, and it has been for years.
Much like during the Literary “Boom,” musical artists have popped up suddenly and simultaneously with sounds from their childhood mixed with rhythms introduced to them as young adults and, as a result, have given birth to an array of beautiful new Colombian-international sounds.
I’ve always been a fan of Latin American music. In my house, since my parents were in their 20’s when I was growing up, we listened to Soda Stereo, Héroes del Silencio, Carlos Vives, Maná, Ekhymosis (whose lead singer was Juanes), lots of salsa, and I listened to Shakira tirelessly.
*cue image of child me belly dancing in the living room*
However, a new age of music is coming around and the youth of the country is open to new sounds and tastes that brew in a big melting pot of beats together with our own Cumbia, Pacific music, Salsa, and lots of others.
This mix of sounds isn’t unheard of, back in the 90s bands started experimenting and creating, however, in my opinion, it had never been as present as it is now with the number of great bands we have in the country.
With the Latin Grammys coming up, I thought we could use a catch-up of what music is being made in Colombia. Here are 10 of these bands, in no particular order.
Whether it’s swaying, bouncing, jumping, salsa-ing, or bopping, you can’t stay still listening to them.
1. Bomba Estéreo: Tropical, Electronic, Cumbia
Founded in Bogotá in 2005, Bomba Estéreo‘s music has been described as an electro-tropical or psychedelic cumbia. It’s party music, their name translating to Stereo Bomb, it’s meant to be danced to, jumped to, grinded to- if you will- or whatever else gets you moving.
They’ve been influenced by Sidestepper, and Bloque De Búsqueda, which, though they might not have been exactly what I heard, sound shockingly like everything I danced to with my dad in the car at seven years old.
“Somos Dos” in particular I really like to get my hips moving to. It feels really tropical and party-worthy. Among other great songs, they have the super catchy “Fuego” which mixes lots of sounds from my childhood: some rock, cumbia and electronic.
They’ve won the 2010 Iggy Award for Best New Band with Estalla, the 2012 iTunes Award for Best New Artist with Elegancia Tropical, the 2013 Shock Magazine Award for Best Group with “Pura Sabrosura” From Elegancia Tropical and were nomintaed for the 2013 Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album for Elegancia Tropical.
“Somos Dos” is from their new album.
2. Monsieur Periné: ‘Suin a la Colombiana’
Monsieur Periné started spontaneously in the large central plaza of Villa de Leyva where a few of the members met and played their instruments while lead singer Catalina sang. Their sound is a mix of jazz, pop, swing, and Colombian sounds- what they call suin a la Colombiana.
Catalina García, lead singer, grew up in a French immersion school in Cali and spent two years in the United States, so their music has bits of other languages (lots of French) mixed with Spanish and influence from several countries’ rhythms.
Their hometown is Bogotá, but they’ve toured the country and have traveled to a number of countries to play their music (they recently finished an international tour).
Monsieur Periné is a relatively new band, but they have become familiar to the Colombian population quickly.
Much of this has to do with the fact that they appeal to the country’s Latin American identity with Catalina’s typical Colombian wardrobe for concerts and the covers of songs close to Colombia’s heart, like “Sabor a mí” and “Bésame Mucho.”
They now have two albums available, Hecho a Mano (2012) and Caja de Música (2015) which maintain throughout them a common thread of sounds but show a true evolution of the band as they settle into their own skin.
They’re a great band to see live (I saw them in Manizales in 2014) and they show a real sense of Colombia’s Music Revolution in their mix of sounds, youthful vibe and determination.
3. Herencia de Timbiquí: Salsa, Pacific, Reggae
This band was recommended to me by a member of another band on this list (more on that later) and since then, I haven’t failed to show all my friends and relatives my deep affection for this project.
Herencia de Timbiquí is made up of 11 African-Colombian musicians from the vicinity of Timbiquí, Cauca and they mix lots of wonderful sounds.
When they started, they incorporated Marimba (an instrument similar to the xylophone) and the drums, and later using also the bass and keyboard.
Their songs are really diverse, some focus on salsa, while others bring out reggae and others really Pacific rhythms with the Marimba, so they don’t all sound the same.
They started out in 2000 with the idea of mixing folkloric Pacific music with contemporary urban rhythms and beats.
I personally love “A tu Manera” and “Amanece” and I am keeping an eye out to see these guys live.
4. Esteban Copete y Su Kinteto Pacífico- Pacific
I didn’t know much about Kinteto Pacífico before researching more for this article.
When I heard them, I knew they had to be included in the list. Not only were they super collaborative, telling me their story, they are exactly what I’m talking about.
These guys compose their own songs but also adapt popular songs to Pacific rhythms, an example of this is their version of the salsa song “Cuídala” by the Lebron Brothers, this is their adaptation. Home run.
Esteban Copete is the grandson of Petronio Alvarez, a famous musician and folklorist, composer of the infamous “Mi Buenaventura.” So the group defines its identity with that name, saying it all began with him.
Copete is from Chocó, but went to Universidad del Valle to study music and became a city man, which led him to believe in the fusion of sounds from his home and those that are more modern.
The group has played all over the country but hasn’t come to Medellín for a while and don’t have any Medellín appearances planned. (Someone do something!)
5. Chocquibtown- Urban, Hip Hop, Alternative
If you’ve kept an eye on Colombian music at all, you’ve probably heard of these guys.
Chocquibtown is a band whose name brakes up what they are: Choc (taken from Chocó, a region of Colombia), Quib (taken from Quibdó, its capital) and Town (meaning just that, their town).
The group is made up of just three Choco natives: Goyo, Tostao and Slow Mike.
Their sound, according to their website, mixes, funk, hip hop, reggae, pop, “latin rhythms,” and elements from electronic music. They’ve been nominated for Latin Grammys numerous times. They won one with “De donde vengo yo” or “where I come from”.
Their first album “Somos Pacífico” was released in 2006. Their two most recent albums “Eso Es Lo Que Hay” went gold and in 2013 they released “Behind The Machine,” for which they were nominated for a Grammy.
They collaborated on “El Mar de Sus Ojos” with Carlos Vives in 2014, a song that debuted at #1 on Billboard.
They also worked with other Latin American artists on “Creo en América,” a song created for the Copa América soccer championship and with Carlos Santana and Ziggy Marley. In 2015 they released “El Mismo,” their latest album.
Lately, their sound has become a bit more “pop” in my opinion, bringing me nostalgia for the old urban Chocquibtown, but I’ll always have “De donde vengo yo.”
6. Systema Solar- Musical-Visual Collective
Systema Solar is a group that began in 2006. They’re a self-declared musical/visual collective from the Caribbean region of Colombia.
Its members are all from different places in Colombia and, therefore, each bring diverse sounds to the group: in the African ascendent vibes, they found infinite possibilities to strengthen Colombia’s music.
They want to create musical/visual shows with their particular style that they call “Berbenautika.”
They recreate Cumbia, Fandango, Champeta, and Bullerengue, all mostly Caribbean sounds. As sound intermediaries, or connectors they use electronic tools with cultural rhythms and styles like Hip Hop, House, Techno, Break Beats, Scratching and live video.
They’ve participated in the South Festival by South West SXSW and have toured Europe through Festivals like the Glastonbury in the U.K, the Roskilde in Denmark, Couleur Café in Belgium, Fusion in Germany, and Cabaret Sauvage in France. They were nominated by Shock magazine for best group of the year in Colombia.
The members go by the names of Jhon Primera, Indigo, Pellegrino, Daniboom, Pata de Perro, DJ Corpas and Andrew.
7. Los Villamarin- Rock, Rap and R&B
Los Villamarín is a Cali-born group that started out in 2010. They mix acoustic and electronic sounds to form a mix of Rock, Rap and R&B.
They were in the top-ten finalists of the TV show Colombia Tiene Talento and have been releasing a few singles and recording EPs (meaning they’re still new and fresh and not mainstream yet).
They’re made up of four members: a beautiful female lead singer and three snazzy musicians. I think we can expect a whole lot from this group.
8. Puerto Candelaria- from Jazz Fusion to Winds and Female Lead
Puerto Candelaria has been around for over a decade, 15 years to be exact. They’re one of the pioneer bands of this revolution. Almost all of the members of Puerto Candelaria over the years have been Paisas.
A few months back, I got together with a couple of the members (Juancho and Eduardo) and wrote a type of collective Paisa Perspective on the band.
We talked about the places they’ve toured (almost all continents) their culture shock in Asian countries, their love for Latin America. While we spoke, they even recommended groups like Herencia de Timbiquí, Monsieur Periné and Crew Peligrosos.
Since then, their members have changed up a bit, Maga La Maga (Magaly Alzate) was added as their lead singer.
While at one point they were a jazz fusion type of band, they have now morphed into a sound that receives a female voice better, they are now welcoming wind instruments more and I’m really excited to see what they have to offer with the new female addition.
They are super fun group to see live, they have great collaborations with other Colombian artists and they’re incredibly nice and humble.
They’re also playing a Halloween show this month on the 31st, a costume concert! Follow their Facebook for more details.
9. Crew Peligrosos- Hip-Hop
What I like about Crew Peligrosos is that they have a social purpose behind their music.
Their founder is Henry Arteaga of Comuna 4 (Aranjuez to be exact). He grew up on one of the most dangerous blocks in Medellín at a time when violence was the only option for survival.
However, he decided against it. He fights violence with a gang turned youth group that focus on music, street art and breakdance.
Hip hip culture is what drives this anti-violence group. They have a strict and punctual school that doesn’t settle for less than excellence. According to El Espectador, more than 200 young people take classes there.
The band’s name is ironic. They’re no danger; they’re the solution.
Hip-hop, as we’ve seen before, can be one of the solutions to many criminal and violent issues around the world, and it’s doing it for Medellín in several areas, like Comuna 13.
It’s no coincidence that one of their songs and albums is entitled “Medayork.” Medellín is renovating, in parts, in the same patterns that parts of New York have in the past.
10. Zalama Crew- Urban, Funk, Soul, Reggae, Afro
Much like Crew Peligrosos, Zalama Crew is committed to society. This band, however, is from Cali.
The group is made up of 10 live artists: drums, bass, guitar, flute, DJ, percussion, real-time Vj and Mc’s.
Their song “Contracorriente” is just an example of how they bring up real life issues to the general public through music, with their lyrics “we’re tired of nothing being done, of our people being deceived.”
Here, however, we see a lot more mix of rhythms. It’s not just hip-hop or rap or urban. Zalama Crew involves sounds from all over the country and international jazzy ones as well.
They played in Rock Al Parque 2015, along with Cafe Tacvba and Los Cafres and have won several awards including the Shock Band Festival Award in 2010, 1st place in New Mestiza Music (or half-blood music) of the Chamber of Commerce in Bogotá (2011).
They have one album available on iTunes titled Everyday Fight (2013).
Like I said, these are just a few of the great bands in Colombia. You can always find great new bands at music festivals, Ferias, and any other significant event in the city/country.
What are your favorite Colombian bands or artists? Tell us in the comments below.
Credit: The first photo of this article was taken by Juntos Worldwide.