Ivied Feet

Ivied Feet

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Rockstar potential

Tricky one, this blog. The challenge is how to write about a female performer who blew everyone in the venue away without turning the blog into a piece of voyeuristic male drooling. I suppose the answer is to write about the music.

I recently had the the pleasure of receiving a link to the latest single from local group La Mákina del Karibe. If you have any grasp of Spanish, you’ll spot that they have very punk-ily replaced the “C”s and the “Q”s in their name with “K”. That marks them out as linguistic rebels, fellow travellers with Barcelona squatters, graffiti artists and opponents everywhere of the Spanish Royal Academy. “Why?” you might ask. I’m not quite sure, but there’s a general sense of unhingedness with La Makina, things turned upside down in a frenetic search for a new beat. I got their album “14 Chankletazos Terapéuticos” last year (don’t overlook the provocative “K”). A “chancletazo” is a whack from a “chancleta”, a sandal or a slipper. So in translation the album title is basically “14 Therapeutic Slipperings”. Suck it up, this is good for you. The album artwork is fabulous. There’s not a “C” in sight that hasn’t been swapped for a “K”, and there’s a whole faux encyclopaedia entry quoted that explains that the group is from “Champetesburgo”. Yeah, they’re taking the piss out of “St. Petersburg”, but the Colombian twist on it is the mash up of the name with “Champeta”. That is a musical genre from the Caribbean coast, centred on Cartagena, which is a very very close relation to the sort of guitar-based African music that first came to my attention when John Peel began playing the Bhundu Boys. The guitar sparkles through this style of music, and the Makina do the same.  The album starts off on a blinder and then, inevitably, slows a little with more variety in the pacing of the songs. There’s an absolute cracker of a slow number that sounds like it should have been first recorded about a hundred years as a southern gospel song, revamped by the Makina with steel drums and African guitars (but no, it’s their song, “Ke Pasó”).

Anyway, the single is a progression from the album. “Vuelve… si quieres!” is a tease (“Come back… if you want to!”), just like the performance of the rather astonishing Monica Castillo. This tall, beautiful woman strides out on stage and takes control of the gig like she was born to be in front of a microphone. She pulls the shoulder of her blouse down and drives the blokes wild with a glimpse of what is underneath. She pouts, laughs, points, leaps, wriggles, and above all, sings her guts out. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be talking about the music. Well, the single is great, with the madness of Richie Arnedo, with the talking bits, in the background, and the guitar stomping its way across the whole song, while the bass just doesn’t stop insisting you get up and dance. There’s even accordions, and a spacey keyboard break in the middle.  It might be a change down in gear from the first album, but the melody doesn´t let up. Give it a whirl. And Monica, well, believe me, she has rockstar potential. Fernando couldn't help himself. He had to ask for a photo as she walked past us on the way out.

Check out the single here:

And here's a taste of what happens on stage:

Monday, 19 May 2014

Little guys, big noise

I don't really think it's on to write about the same band more than once, especially seeing as there's so many great bands here that I haven't got round to telling you about yet. But on Sunday we went to see Los Petit Fellas in an afternoon gig at a hamburger restaurant that opened its doors to an all-ages public. Yep, we used to like all-ages shows when our friends were straight-edgers and listened spellbound to Dag Nasty. Nowadays things have changed, and we likes all-ages shows cos we is parents and want to bring our child up as a rocker.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Shop names

There's probably a whole swathe of blogs dedicated to inappropriate words in English being used for shop names. I don't know where they are or how to find them, but here's my own little contribution. We just drove past this gem. It's a sports shop, just in case the name left you in any doubt.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Carranga time

We came up north to Tunja this morning, to celebrate Colombia's Mothers' Day with mother-in-law Nydia. More or less as soon as we got here, we headed off to Sáchica for a lunch of fried chicken, fried yuca, fried plantain and boiled potatoes. With spicy sauce (that's where they hide the vegetables - a teaspoon of chopped tomatoes and onions, mixed with vinegar and a bucket of chilli peppers). I had the vegetarian option - a fried egg. We then landed in Raquira, the multi-coloured home of Boyaca's handicraft industry. The streets are lined with shops selling mostly exactly the same things: earthenware pottery, hanging mobiles, wool knits, hammocks etc. Raquira is also famous, at a national level, for being home to carranga, a "traditional" music that bizarrely evolved a mere 40 years ago. The prime exponent of the genre is the fabulously grumpy, qualified vetinary surgeon, Jorge Velosa. We've seen him in concert many a time, indeed, I've danced drunkenly round the Plaza de Bolívar in Tunja with my mother-in-law Nydia to Jorge Velosa in the Christmas concerts. Today, in Raquira (his home town), we didn't meet him, but we did stumble across a crew from Radiolem, an archival project dedicated to documenting the musical heritage of the country. They were busy recording a group of carrangueros, five 'campesinos' who were playing for the archive in Raquira's central square. The sound isn't great on the video, but it'll give you a flavour of the chance encounter.

And for a bit more context, here's a ropey video of Jorge Velosa:

Thursday, 1 May 2014


The first of May, the day to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs, and a welcome day off work. So what do we do? Head out to the country to look for somewhere nicer to live than Bogotá. We went west, out on 80th Street, and for the second time in a year and a half ended up in Subachoque. Subachoque would seem to be a slightly weird place – can anyone explain to me why there is a rusting hovercraft parked up on the side of the road in the middle of the Andes, about 2700m above sea level and a long way away from any sizeable water feature that could possibly require its employment? (Reminds me of that story when the police discovered a submarine being built in a warehouse in Bogotá.)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Diamante Eléctrico

Diamante Eléctrico
Time for another musical outing, pop pickers. You might think I’m being really lazy with the curatorial side of the musical selection on the blog by just going through the list of bands who played showcases in our Bogotá Music Market, and you’d be right as well. Thing is, all the bands who played were amazing, so I don’t really need to look any further for the time being.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

National Debt

It’s probably about time I got my finger out and started trying to tell you about the astonishing number of great bands that make music in Colombia at the moment. The country has treated me like a prince with the amount of wonderful music it has brought into my life, it wouldn't be too much for me to at least return some of the favour. It might help if I put it in context. My context. I get to organise the Bogotá Music Market (BOmm) for the local Chamber of Commerce. It seems like a weird place to have ended up working, but once a year all the threads come together for a two day event where we put the best local bands onstage for international programmers to listen to, and have conference talks from music industry experts, and have a day of speed networking, where the bands and the buyers can have 15 minute meetings to get to know each other, and start building relationships that ideally end up in the musicians finding more paid work. The purpose of it all is to build the local music scene, obviously from a business perspective, given that it is the Chamber of Commerce, and open up more possibilities for the musicians to be able to make a living from their music. This year, our second year, we had programmers from all over the world come to Bogotá to be our guests. Perhaps our biggest hitter was Geoff Ellis, the bloke that runs the “T in the Park” festival in Scotland.  I was certainly pleased to have a Brit to talk to for two days in Bogotá… that doesn't happen very often!

Herencia de Timbiqui - BOmm 2013
One of the key features of the event are the showcases, where the bands who have been selected by the curators get to play a 15 minute set in order to dazzle the venue owners and programmers who are looking for talent to put on their stages. It is a curious format… you have to try to make an impact in a pretty short period of time, a time frame that isn't really long enough to build a relationship with the audience, so showcases can be a bit of a challenge. On top of that the showcases for our BOmm this year kicked off right after the opening speeches, at 9:30 am on a Wednesday morning. Imagine the horror! But the showcase that set the BOmm alight right from the off came courtesy of Herencia de Timbiquí. This is a group of lads playing music from Timbiquí, a little town on the Pacific coast of Colombia. It must be a pretty special place, for it seems like nobody does anything there except produce fabulous traditional music. It's the birthplace of “Canalón de Timbiquí”, the group fronted by Nidia Gongora, the main female voice on the Ondatropica album that you should have heard by now (and are on your way to buy if you haven’t).