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).


Herencia de Timbiqui - BOmm 2013
Herencia have been playing together since 2000, but seem to have exploded in the past year (or maybe I’ve only just noticed them). They've been picking up awards regularly, winning the “Gaviota de Plata” (Silver Seagull) in the Viña del Mar festival in Chile earlier this year, and are likely to go home with a few more gongs from the Shock magazine music awards tomorrow night in Bogotá. They play an enchanting modern take on traditional black music from the Pacific coast: it sounds fairly rootsy to me, but those who *know* about these things tell me that the music is a modern version, not a faithful adherence to the tradition. I don't see that as a bad thing, although I suppose when Ry Cooder brought out the Buena Vista Social Club album there must have been a gang of really really really old Cuban musos sitting around, darkly cursing ‘those bloody youngsters, with their modern interpretations of our folklore”…

Herencia de Timbiqui - BOmm 2013
Herencia set the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce on fire on a Wednesday morning at half past nine. In an auditorium that is more used to rows of seated and suited business people listening carefully to talks about the advantages of free trade agreements, or the implications of the latest agricultural tax reforms, the Bogotá Music Market audience got to its feet and was dancing to the sound of the Pacific coast marimba. I’ll leave you with the video of their current hit, Amanecé (it means "Dawn", it's on the radio all the time, and it is the song that won them the accolade in the Chilean festival). Let me know what you think. And give them a like on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and tell your mates, eh?

(Photographs by the talented Julian Tellez, from the Chamber of Commerce's Flickr set from the BOmm.)