So I’ve wanted to write about Colombian music for a while now. But it sort of involves having to come clean about what I’ve been doing for a living in recent months. I landed a job with the city’s Chamber of Commerce (yeah, you heard me right), which is sort of weird, but I have the good fortune of working for the benefit of Creative and Cultural Industries, being the coordinator of events that promote cinema and music. I started just under six months ago, straight into a baptism of fire, with just five weeks between me starting and my first event, the Bogotá Audiovisual Market. It mainly promotes Colombia cinema to an international market. When I first came to Colombia in 1996 the release of a Colombian feature film was a happening that was talked about for years. The entire nineties were dominated by a couple of films (if you haven’t seen them, watch La Estrategia del Caracol and La Vendedora de Rosas), because they’d hardly made more than a couple. Nowadays there are Colombian films opening every month, and they travel abroad and make an impact.
Following that, we organised an event to promote Colombian music. Anyone who has had dinner in our house in the past decade and a half will have been subjected to the Aterciopelados at some point, Colombian’s rock group par excellence in our ears, and more recently Sidestepper, a gathering of local talent that also includes the English producer Richard Blair, who make wonderful electronic music. I sort of had a suspicion that there was a lot more out there to be heard, but living in Cardiff didn’t facilitate easy access to the latest tunes from Colombia.
For the music event that we organised, the Bogotá Music Market, we were flooded with inscriptions and I was bowled over by the hitherto unknown depth and breadth of Colombian talent. In the broadest sense it seems that local musicians have turned to their roots, and there is a huge renaissance of traditional music forms, but this time they are being reappropriated by youngsters who with insouciant disdain, churn out fabulous “fusion” – electro-cumbia, carranga-rock, salsa-hardcore crossovers! On reflection, it has really been a privilege to end up in this job, getting paid for working with and listening to such great music.
I think the only thing to do is to blog a band at a time, so I’m going to present for your delectation the astonishing La Toma (it doesn’t translate too easily, as there are many meanings: it could be “The (military) Takeover”, it could be “The (electric) Plug”, it could be “The Swallowing (of a drink)”. It’s a tricky one!). I saw them live about three weeks ago on the trip to Medellin, after having had them participate in our Bogotá Music Market. Since then their songs have been on repeat in the flat. Oisin insisted on listening to “Llevo el alma en la garganta” ("I carry my soul in my throat") five times in a row a few nights ago. He now knows the lyrics and throws some great shapes on the kitchen (dance) floor when I put it on. They are a mix of rock, ska, cumbia, funk, salsa and nearly some oi (check the chorus of the first song). It’s a format that has been done well in Latin America in the past, reference points would be Bersuit Bergarabat or perhaps the Fabulosos Cadillacs, but La Toma’s best songs are world beaters. This also combines with the fact that live they blow you away, so I leave you with Oisin’s mash up of La Toma, and then some of my favourite tunes of theirs. All they need is to come and play a full-length gig in Bogotá very soon – ideally all ages so the boy can go too!
Now you've seen the fan action, try the original. And then try to turn it off! It's on repeat here at the moment.
This is another cracking tune: "Más Gente Como Tú" ("More People Like You" - did I mention their lyrics are cool as well?)
And to finish off, a cabaret intro to this video which gives a small flavour of the live performance. They kicked off with a 3min version of this intro, which had me really confused until they strolled on and casually lifted the roof off the venue. "Creo" ("I believe")