Kombilesa Mí in "Vamos Pal Baile" (Youtube)

7 Afro-Colombian Bands From Palenque de San Basilio You Should Check Out

Palenque de San Basilio is considered the first free African slave town in the Americas. We compile a list of seven iconic and new Afro-Colombian bands from Palenque that shouldn't fly under your radar.

What makes Palenque de San Basilio a musical hot spot is its deep connection with its African heritage, which comes from a community who escaped slavery from coastal plantations to found their enclave in Palenque's village in the early XVII century. The town is located in the foothills of Montes de María in the northern coastal region of Colombia, a very isolated place that allowed them to keep their distinct creole language, known as lengua Palenquera, and their amazing array of musical styles.

When you arrive in Palenque you hear a mix of beats coming from loud picós (from 'pick-up'), a sound system operator, tuning rhythms ranging from champeta, reggae, Afro-punk, Congolese soukous and folkloric hip-hop to more traditional drums and percussion.

The town's party happens the second weekend of October when the Festival de Tambores (Drumming festival) and Ñeque y Tambó celebration gather local musicians to showcase genres like Terapia or champeta, lumbalú's sounds (a funerary tradition with Central African cultural roots), rap Palenquero, reggae, electronic music and DJs. For four days they perform while people hang out in the central square or dance at the forefront of the houses to jam and drink ñeke, a sacred sugar liquor to Palenque's musicians. Here is a list to capture the lush and sonic landscapes of the first free black town of the new world.


Kombilesa Mí

Kombilesa Mí are a nine-member 'rap folkloric Palenquero' collective. Their music combines Caribbean rhythms like cumbia, mapalé, champeta, bullerengue, son palenquero, puya, African soukous and hip-hop with lyrics delivered in the Palenquero language. They're lead by Adris Padilla, alias Afroneto, who encouraged several hip-hop collectives to end rivalries between rappers to start this band in 2016. Their second album, Esa Palenquera, is filled with references to their African roots, the strength of Afro women, Palenque traditions and their ongoing fight to end racial discrimination. Kombilesa Mí have carved their own path in their town and abroad to spread their Palenque language and mark the legacy of Palenque de San Basilio on the world.

Estrellas del Caribe

Estrellas del Caribe is a musical institution in Palenque. Throughout the years, a lot of musicians have played with the group and the band has sparked new genres like champeta. Estrellas del Caribe is comprised of five iconic and psychedelic members: Leonel Torres, Rosalío Salgado, Juan Gañate, Franklin Hernández (Tambor) and Laureano Tejedor. Almost all of the musicians combine their countryside activities with their 'therapy' as they call their music Terapia criolla—a mixture of elements of rap, reggae, Caribbean music and bits and pieces of African soukous that came to Palenque thanks to the arrival of acetate records from Central Africa. Thanks to their manager Franklin Tejedor, a member of a prominent Palenquero musical family and a musician in his own right, the band recorded their first album in 2013 and they are now working on their second album to be released in 2020. It was because of this pioneering band that the sound of 'urban champeta' arose with artists like Viviano Torres and Charles King, who brought the music to Cartagena.

Mitú

Mitú is electronic duo which was conceived to be a live show band rather than a studio-based group. The group is comprised by Julián Salazar, former member of psychedelic cumbia band Bomba Estéreo and Franklin Tejedor, a percussionist from a lineage of musicians in San Basilio. Mitú mixes electronic sounds with palenquero music by using synthesizers and drums machines accompanied by words and chants that Tejedor, or pther Afro cantoras deliver in Spanish or in Palenquero language. The group has been around since 2012 and have recorded five eclectic albums with an array of afro-futuristic beats, as shwon in Potro (2012), Balnear (2014), Cosmus (2017), Los Ángeles (2018) and (Tandem) 2019.

El Sexteto Tabalá

El Sexteto Tabalá is the most traditional and pioneering band based in San Basilio. They display a mix of sounds like cumbia, lumbalú (a funerary musical tradition) and Cuban influences by incorporating an instrument called the marímbula, an instrument based on the mbira that Cubans brought to Colombia. The band started playing in funerals, marriages and rituals and didn't really care about recording until Palenque Records, a local record label, encouraged them to record its first vinyl and made them known across the world.

Rap Ku Suto 

Rap Ku Suto is creating a new hip-hop movement along the new generations of musicians from Palenque that sing and rhyme to prompt social transformation. Their words advocate for their roots, fight for Afro-community rights and denounce injustices against their community. Rap Ku Suto, in Palenquero, mean "rap with us," which embodies their collective search to find their African roots and promote their origin. This is conscious, social and protest rap that embraces the voice of the people and defends their territories.

Son Palenque

Son Palenque has been around for 40 years. Its leader Justo Valdez sings in the Palenque backed by powerful champeta beats and traditional instruments. With more than ten albums and an outstanding career that has taken them through different parts of the world, Son Palenque is a responsible for a hotbed of artists dedicated to champeta in the city of Cartagena, including Viviano Torres, Charles King, Melchor Pérez and Kassiva. They recently released a new single, "La Jugadita," and will play in the Cartagena and Barranquilla carnivals in 2020.

Las Alegres Ambulancias

This ancestral group is made-up of a family of drummers & singers that have played parties and wakes in Palenque for over a century since 1907. It's a sort of music school for many young musicians and its legacy has delved into various rhythms like Lulbalú, bullerengue, chalupa and son de negro. Las Alegres Ambulancias have toured locally since 1980 celebrating the dead's rituals to say farewell to their souls and help them to go away. Now, the manager and percussionist of the band Tomás Teherán, a descendant of the 'Batanta' musical drummers dynasty, is reviving its legacy with African soukous beats, not only for the dead but for those who are alive.

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Shakira performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Shakira Brought Afro-Colombian Dance to the Super Bowl

The singer danced Champeta during her performance of "Waka Waka," as well as Mapalé.

At last night's Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez hit the stage during the halftime show and both brought their respective Latinx cultures to the forefront during their performance.

Shakira hit the stage first, running through tracks like her hit record "Hips Don't Lie," and more. The Colombian singer later returned to the stage following Jennifer Lopez's performance for a rendition of her 2008 World Cup smash hit "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa" (a remake of the 1986 song "Zamina Mina" by Cameroonian makossa group Zangaléwa).

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Afro-Latino Identity Reframed in 'Africamericanos'

The ambitious Mexican photography exhibition presents work from dozens of artists and historical archives documenting the lives of Afro-Latino people

After the loss of her friend 3 years ago, Mexican photographer Koral Carballo retreated to the tiny, out of the way, town of Coyolillo where she hoped to find space for healing and reflection. In the town's living carnival traditions she found inspiration and hope. Coyolillo and it's carnaval is not well known nationally, even less known in the greater Afro-Latino diasporic context, but the town is in the southern coastal state of Vera Cruz, which has one of the highest percentages of Afro-Mexicans in the country.

"I think of my internal struggle and the struggle of this community constantly" says Carballo. "It amazes me how this humiliated and violated community can persevere with such kindness. This town has filled me not only with hope but with strength. It has made me rethink what it means to be free."

Carballo's work "El Misterio del Disfrazado" is the first part of a more extensive project that she has been working on since 2014. In the colourful images we see a person from behind dressed in a floral hooded cape against the backdrop of greenery, a young man's bare back is drizzled with shimmering blue glitter, an intricate floral arrangement adorns a mundane rooftop and a little boy's face peers out from under his carnival masque that sits loosely above his head.

The moving photos are part of the "Africamericanos" exposition at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. The exposition curated by Claudi Carreras, is the Centro de la Imagen's most extensive and most important exhibition of 2018.

Africans arrived as early as the 1500's in Latin America through force—brought by European colonial powers who exploited them for slave labour. The contribution of African slaves and their descendants permeates the bedrock of these nations but the invaluable contribution of afro-descendants in the region has and continues to be significantly overlooked, systematically smudged and purposely ignored in the history books.

Photos: Koral Carballo

"Africamericanos" is a trans-media exposition encompassing more than 400 historical photos from several archives, in addition to contemporary works by over 70 established artists including a series of projects especially commissioned for the show. The investigation illuminates nuances of afro-descendant's experiences across 16 Latin American nations.

"Historically, in practically every Latin American country, images of people of African descent have been made invisible, dismissed, suppressed and deconstructed" says Claudi Carreras, the show's curator. "Thus, it is essential to reveal and reconstruct the visual map of the African diaspora in this region and to re-examine the stereotypes that encumber this identity."

In "Africamericanos," Carreras finds the equilibrium between honestly examining both the past and present. The exposition addresses the reality of slavery, centuries of injustice and denial but also illuminates the human triumphs, perseverance and invaluable role afro-descendants have played in the construction and identity of these nations.

In Argentinian artist Nicolas Janowski's work, images made with oil and acrylic paint are blended with historical photographs from early 20th century Afro-Argentinean newspapers, as well as phrases and sayings connected to the themes of his work. Janowski's artwork depicts images of Afro-Argentineans whose bodies and faces reflect subtle degrees of visibility, conveying a "barely there image" on a washed out background.

Other minimalist pieces incorporate public statements made by Argentinian leaders in black font on white backgrounds. One example is a quote made as recent as this year by current Argentine president Mauricio Macri who stated "In South America we're all descendants of Europeans" and another relatively recent former president Carlos Menem, stated in 1994, "In Argentina there isn't discrimination because there are no blacks. Brazil has this problem".

"Argentina has always wanted to profess it's European identity, excluding any reference to African roots in the construction of its identity," Janowski tells me. "I started to review the processes of construction of our national identity: denial, whitening of Afro-Argentinean descendants, symbolic extermination, and systematic processes of acculturation of Afro-descendents throughout history".

Images: Nicolas Janowski

"Afroargentina" investigates the historical construction of the white gaze on Afro-Argentinians. To research the history he went for courses and seminars with Afro-political activists at Diafar (Diaspora Africana de la Argentina), acknowledging his own privileged position in society and the necessity of honestly subverting his own white male gaze to achieve this work.

The show contains work documenting afro-descendants in Brazil and Cuba—communities that are relatively more well known. There are also works which reflect lesser highlighted experiences of afro-descendants, such as the contemporary queer nightlife scene in Port -Au-Prince, Haiti, as well as black female wet nurses who were made to pose for photos (a custom inherited from slavery) with their aristocratic employer's infants, in the nineteenth century in Lima Peru.

The works which left a lingering impression were by artists from countries whose afro-descendents existence is scarcely known, or regarded, in certain cases overtly systematically denied. These works challenge not solely the status quo but re-adjusts the focus of the lens—potentially provoking a deeper national self-reflection and creating opportunities to dissect centuries old narratives engineered to purge large chunks of a nation's identity in order to propagate a more idealised image of itself.

Mexico first formally recognised its citizens of African descent in a national survey in 2015. For the first time this demographic will be added to the national census as a racial category in 2020.

Carballo, who is herself a Vera Cruz native, is unsure if she has African ancestry, but confesses that she is in the process of researching her family history after an anthropologist pointed out her distinct African features. She notes the legacy of skewed historical narratives, "In Mexico, some of our heroes of our official history such as Jose Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero were black, but the pictorial representations turned them into white mestizos. If this happens with our heroes, it makes me think about how much we don't really know (as a country) and how we've been lied to all this time".

'Africamericanos' goes to November 11th at the Centro de la Imagen

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K.O Releases ‘Killa Combo’ Featuring Zingah, Loki, Tellaman and Mariechan

Listen to the first single released under K.O's new imprint Skhandaworld.

The last time we spoke to K.O., he revealed that one of his goals for the year is to launch Skhandaworld, a newly launched imprint founded by the South African emcee. The up-and-coming rapper Loki was a top priority as he is the first signee under the label.

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Twice As Tall World Tour. Flyer provided by Atlantic Records.

Burna Boy Announces 'Twice As Tall' World Tour Dates

The Nigerian star will be playing shows across North America and Europe this summer.

Burna Boy is hitting the road again.

Following the celebrated release of African Giant—which came with nominations at both the Grammys & BRIT Awards and a trophy for Best International Act at the BET Awards—the Nigerian star will be embarking on a long run of shows that will take him across North America and Europe.

The Twice As Tall World Tour will kick off in May in Atlanta, and will see Burna Boy playing concerts across the US, Canada, Norway, France, Portugal, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and more locations.

You can check out the full tour dates for Twice As Tall World Tour below and revisit Burna Boy's performance for Okay Acoustics.

Tickets are available now.

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