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.

Colombians have an expression which translates as “a promise is a debt”, and although in this case I didn’t actually promise anything to anyone, I do feel like I have a debt to pay. You see, one day, not so long ago, I happened to log in to Facebook seconds after the manager of Diamante Eléctrico had posted an online competition for a copy of their new album. I’d seen Diamante a year ago in the 2012 version of Circulart, the music industry conference in Medellin.  It was the first time I’d seen them, and their showcase blew my socks off. I’m not sure I’d seen them in the time since Circulart, but when the album popped up, I was in like Flynn with the correct answers, and much to my fanboy embarrassment, won a copy of the album. It wasn’t a promise, but it feels like a debt that I should repay in some fashion, so here I am, about to tell you how marvellous Diamante Eléctrico are.

I had a great literature teacher in university in Galway who lectured us on James Joyce. One of his comments on Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was that Joyce set himself a huge challenge by writing about an artist, in that he made it necessary to provide an example of the art of the artist within the text that he composed. I've been thinking about that comment a lot as I wonder whether Ivied Feet might cut it as a music blog, and I wonder if I need to go and study some postgrad course in music journalism in order to be able to describe in words what my ears delight in. And then part of me thinks, no, I don’t need to do that. All I need to do is tell you that it is great, and all you need to do is click the fecking play button on the Youtube embeds, or the Soundcloud playlists, and listen for yourselves. It’d probably be quicker, and at the end of the day, if I think it is great and you decide that it is great, you’ll still have to have listened to it to come to that agreement with me. So click the play button.  The music will always be beyond my ability to capture it in words, so let’s just take the short cut and you make your own mind up.

The idea that the only music that to come out of Colombia would be “latin music” is a misconception shared by even the most discerning of Belfast rockers. None less than Belfast’s answer to Mark Lanegan, Tb Chapman, recently wrote to me thus:

I'm probably being very shallow & closed minded but I just assumed you listened to "Latin" music now. And my prejudice makes me assume that all Latin music is salsa. I know. I know I'm a wanker. So when I see you encouraging people to check out some local bands yer into I don't ever hink they're "rock" or anything I would be interested in. I must admit that I DO have a problem with other languages in song. I like to be able to sing along, for a start. Forgive this rather rambling reply. I hink I was just shocked that yer still into a bit of rock. Once again reinforcing my status as a wanker.

Well I am into a bit of rock. And with Diamante you get more than a bit of rock. I sort of want them to be Colombia’s answer to the Queens, but they’re not there yet. They are probably closer to Cream, in a ballsy, riff-tastic, straight ahead blast of power-trio rock. I want them to have more elements, more chorus, more psychedelia, more layers. The album cover recalls sixties psychedelia, and the live show features more of the same style in projections. The comparison with Cream isn’t too far-fetched, as the drummer is a monster as well, although watching him trying to force aguardiente down the throat of another bass-player at a recent gig made me think that he has to be more sociable than Ginger Baker. They are also not shy about referencing their rock heroes... listen for the Zeppelin nod in the middle and as the, ahem, coda, of "Diamante Eléctrico". As for the name, I think you can probably manage to translate it without my help, and identify the echoes of Pink Floyd and the Beatles in there as well. Diamante Eléctrico made a big hit in the BOmm, they even garnered an approving review from the American music industry’s very own Victor Meldrew, Bob Lefsetz, and their video for "Matar a un Hombre Muerto" (Killing a Dead Man) has won local prizes. But as my friend Paul says, people who speak English want to sing along in English, so I wonder how things will pan out for these guys in the Anglo world. Well, tell me what you think. Go on, click the play button, and give it a listen. I think they rock.

(Top photo is by Julian Tellez and taken from the BOmm Flickr set.)

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).

Monday, 19 August 2013

On the bars

I've been told off recently for not posting enough pics of the family. You know when they say that to you that they don't really mean pics of the three of us, they mean good quality photographs in high definition of the child. As previously warned, the procurement of this new phone toy has expanded my recording capabilities, so here I'm sharing with you proud father moment number #2115.

For those of you unsufficiently impressed with this feat, this was his second time crossing the monkey bars unaided. The first time I wasn't expecting him to make it across and so wasn't filming!

There's a prize for anyone who can work out the significance of the number.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Desorden Social

Here's a quick treat for you. Taking me right back to my roots, Desorden Social are a ska-punk band from Bogota who have been on the go since 1996. Things get a bit confusing if you Google them, as there is also a Colombian rap band by the exact same name, and they've just released an album, so it must be hell working in the local record shops and dealing with cross, confused Desorden Social customers. Not that the ska-punkers can complain much - their moniker is a Spanish translation of Social Disorder, and yes, you guessed it, there was a Social Disorder playing growly metally hardcore in the Agnostic Front mould, round New York in the early nineties. If the Myspace stats are anything to go by, Desorden Social are definitely the most popular incarnation of this pair of words.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


On the road north from Bogotá to Tunja, there's a place we regularly stop for arepas, the corn flour and cheese patties that are a staple of Boyaca cuisine. "The National Arepa Factory", it is humbly named, although there is a stretch of about ten kilometers that is completely lined with restaurants and cafes selling arepas, so I suppose you have to try to make your mark one way or another. On Saturday they decided to push the boat out and make a very special welcome for their vegetarian customers. A severed cow's head hung by the door, its tongue sticking out at a bizarre angle, blowing a belated and futile raspberry in the face of the slaughterman. Still fancy an arepa, or have you suddenly lost your appetite?

Once the truly perfectionist arepa maker has cooked the arepa
 on both sides, he or she then plonks them down onto
 little rotating platters next to the charcoal, so that the edges
get browned and crisped up.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Crew Peligrosos & Los Petit Fellas

I've a fear that this blog post is going to come out achingly white. Y'see, we need to talk about hip-hop. But the problem is I know feck all about hip-hop. There's probably a cassette of a Public Enemy LP somewhere in my house in Belfast, but if you need to talk to someone from Belfast about hip-hop, it should really be Hippopotamus Rex. That's my friend Ronan Hamill. He knows so much about hip-hop and rap they gave him a show on PBS radio in Australia, but he's abandonded social media, and you won't get an answer if you write to him so you'll have to listen to me for the time being. I just hope this doesn't come out sounding like Ali G took over Ivied Feet for the morning...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Holding out for a (HTC) Hero, Pt II

So, it's been a good while since anything went up on this blog. Don't think I haven't missed you all, or missed the chance to stand tall and proud on an icy, inhospitable, unvisited little outcrop of the internet and shout my deliriums to the four winds. The words don't stop echoing round inside my head, and there are certainly plenty of words, so perhaps it's for the best that some if them find escape onto the pages of Ivied Feet, at least it'll take the pressure off the shunt.

The truth of the matter is that I have buckled in the face of modern society's imperative that I compensate a soulless existence with the trinkets that late capitalism conjures up in exchange for our salaries. A new phone has been had, and what a trinket it is. It has a shiny screen that moves when you touch it (not like those Blackberries), it has a bit that downloads the internet (not like the last Nokia), and it has Google inside, so not a bit like those cheapie eyefones. Yes, I've fallen back into the arms of HTC, and this time it is personal (cos Google already synced all my data). There is even an applification for writing duff blog posts. So you've been warned. The frequency of mindless spew coupled with blurry cameraphone pictures is about to go through the roof. No one is forcing you to read this though, are they?

Or as my mum commented, "what's the point of a phone that needs you to have an armed guard with you if you're going to take it out of your pocket on the street in Bogotá?" Mum clearly got the hang of Bogotá. The Play Store doesn't seem to have an armed guard app.