Eduardo González or “El Caballero del Bajo” is the lead singer and bass player of Puerto Candelaria, a paisa band that plays a hybrid of jazz, cumbia, and other sounds that make up what they like to call “cumbia underground.”
The band has been around for over 15 years. They started out as university students, half of the band was studying in Cuba at the time. Looking to play something new, but at the same time influenced by Cuban musicians who revived childhood Latin-American music, their sound started to gain shape.
There are five members of Puerto Candelaria, four from Medellín and one from Santander, each with a nickname:
- Caballero del Bajo
- Sargento Remolacha
- El loco del pueblo
- El niño (Diyi)
Their first big show was at a Jazz Festival in Bogotá and since then they have played in over fifty cities around the world.
Puerto Candelaria: An Imaginary Place
La Villa de la Candelaria is what they used to call Medellín, so that’s very important in our name, the cultural part of it. Juancho likes to say that if our band had been from Mexico it would have been named “Puerto Guadalupe,” the Virgin of La Candelaria is something like our patron here in Medellín.
Also a port (Puerto) is where a lot of things are happening, and influences are being exchanged. It’s very eclectic. And that is what Puerto Candelaria is. A place where many things happen.
Puerto Candelaria is an imaginary place. It has a river, a main square, and inhabitants which are us.
There are so many but, to name a few, we were influenced by all of Colombian music. Which is a wide range of sounds: we have music from the Andes, from the coasts, etc. Some of us studied jazz, classical music, salsa, and all of that has come together to form our sound.
Our influences haven’t changed, but we have added more over the years.
The fact that Puerto Candelaria has traveled so much over the past ten years has given us the opportunity to be open to the world and to more influences that enriched our sound.
The Changing Music Scene in Colombia
About ten or fifteen years ago something very particular happened. Puerto Candelaria and other groups started to emerge at the same time (Chocquibtown, Bomba Estereo, Monsieur Periné). We didn’t know each other then, but we do now.
All this happened during a specific time, a spontaneous generation of musicians that wanted very similar things, specifically to revive Colombian music.
It’s interesting to see how all these groups, no matter if they’re jazz, hip hop, or funk, they all look towards Colombian identity. That’s what is different about these new lines of music in Colombia now.
Medellín: An Outdoor Stage
There’s a reason the Metro wasn’t built underground. Apart from the fact that it would have cost twice as much, we have wonderful weather. The best stage for a concert is any outdoor stage. Which is why our festivals love to have outdoor concerts.
During Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) you can find a variety of outdoor music. It’s an advantage to have the sky and the stars as your stage. The city is the scenery.
We have played several times at Calle 9 and I liked it. It’s a very alternative type of party; a great place to listen to live music when they have it-which isn’t too frequently- and dance.
I used to go to Eastern Antioquia a lot when I had more time. Around La Unión to go biking. It’s different air that you breathe when you get out of the city.
I live in Envigado, and I like having coffee at Café OtraParte. It’s a little oasis in town. It’s outdoors, but it’s a privileged spot because if it were raining you’d still be fine there.
It has a history as well; it used to be Fernando González’s (writer and philosopher) farm with these huge green pastures and now it’s an oasis between streets and buildings.
The Best Concert Crowd
Vallejo once said that his country was Spanish. Meaning, anywhere that the language is Spanish he feels at home. It’s similar for us. There is a connection with Spanish speaking crowds that you can’t compare to others. When we go to Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina or Uruguay, we feel a connection. We have the same past and history in Latin America.
I feel great in those countries but if I had to highlight one I’d say Mexico is the place where I’ve felt most comfortable. It requires minimal effort, so to speak. You tell them a joke and they get it, you tell them your story and they get it, they live the same reality.
When we went to China, it was so different. We went to a Jazz Festival. They have a listening capacity that is quite amazing. We were surprised that they were sitting down on these chairs that had been laid out for them and told them they could dance, and immediately they stood up and danced, as if they had waited for us to give permission.
They were great, Eastern cultures have a great curiosity for Latin American music. They find it so different and exotic and showed a lot of interest. In the end, we didn’t feel entirely different from them.
Music Festivals in Medellín
We love the Flower Festival, and we’ve had the privilege to participate in it.
Also, we have our own Primavera Fest in May, organized by our producer, Merlín Producciones, and we enjoy the Jazz Festival that takes place around September, the Afro Festival, among many others that I am surely forgetting.
We’re lacking more spaces like this, however. One space like the Pedro Nel Museum changes the entire neighborhood. The homes start mirroring the art; they start feeling a sense of belonging.
Recommended Colombian Bands
I recommend Herencia de Timbiquí from Timbiquí, Cauca; they have a Pacific folklore sound turned modern. A band from Aranjuez, while we’re on the subject, called Crew Peligrosos, an urban band that plays rap and hip hop.
The more known ones like Bomba Estéreo, Aterciopelados who got back together a few days ago for Estéreo Picnic. We’ve played with Andrea Echeverri from Aterciopelados for our DVD “Amor y Deudas”, as well as with Estemán and Monsieur Periné.
There’s a big musical movement happening in Colombia, it’s very important because Colombia is on the radar. People are coming to record music here and contacting Colombian musicians. There’s a rediscovery of Colombia going on.
We, as a country, opened ourselves to the world and it opened itself to us as well.
The Role of Music in Medellín Society
We, as a city, are lucky to count on great government investment in culture and music. Sometimes it’s not as visible; there will be a concert that doesn’t sell all the tickets but the fact is that the financial support is there, and we have to take advantage of it. The importance of music is clear to both citizens and government organizations.
Colombia is a musical country. We celebrate everything with dancing. We get together, and an hour later we’re moving seats around, so we have more room to dance. No party ends on a couch. We’re spontaneous, we love singing as well.
The Future of Medellín
In the next five years, I’d like to see Medellín invest a lot more socially, with a continuity of better public transportation. I’d like to see a bike friendly city, which we’re already starting to see, a completely pedestrian downtown area and the recovery of some of our neighborhoods that are starting to break down, like Prado.
A city that values cultural and architectural heritage, and musically a lot more active, of course.
Changes in the city
When I was little, I saw large spaces and not a lot of people, and now, I feel like it’s getting a bit crowded. Medellín is a relatively small city, and we are filling it.
We’ve grown and that’s a positive. We have a more global vision of what a city is. Before, all you would see is Paisas on Paisas and maybe the odd person from Bogotá. Now, we have a lot of foreigners coming here and that says a lot about Medellín.
There’s a lot less fear about coming here. So, thankfully, we’re a lot more crowded.