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Systema Solar: 10 Things I Love About Afro-Colombia

The collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia.

In our “10 Things I Love” series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.


In this new installment, the dynamic collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia. The group's new album 'Rumbo a Tierra' is available now.

Sound Systems in Barranquilla

KZ Son Palenque in the city of Barranquilla is excellent. KZ is the place where the verbena, or sound system parties take place, and where you can enjoy dancing to a Picó. While there you'll probably hear Congolese music, like classic tunes from the master, Lokassa Ya Mbongo.

Eating Rondón while listening to friends' music

Rondón is a typical islander dish from the Afro-Raizal (the creole-English-speaking inhabitants) population. Rondón’s pronunciation is derived from the English “RUN DOWN.” It's a coconut milk-based stew with fish, snail, pigtail, accompanied with yam, cassava, plantain, bread fruit and dumpling. We love listening to our friend Elkin Robinson’s music while a delicious Rondón is being prepared.

Rafael Cassiani at Festival de Tambores. Image by Simón Sánchez Sotomayor via Fickr (under Creative Commons License)

Festival De Tambores

We once played the Festival De Tambores (drum festival) in San Basilio de Palenke. Whoever visits can be easily captivated by its beauty, musical power, and in general, by the cultural practices of the wonderful people from that place. They're truly a part of Africa in Colombia.

Cultural Preservation

Check out Kuagro collective and Kombilesa Mi (our friends) who aim to safeguard their language, the Palenkera tongue from San Basilio de Palenke. On top of preserving their own culture, they're an example of resistance and dignity from the Afro-Colombian community.

Carnaval del Suroccidente

Afro-Colombian communities contribute a lot to the Carnaval Del Suroccidente in Barranquilla, which takes place in February, through troupes, cumbiambas (cumbia dancing), masks, various ancestral dances, and valuable expressions rich in their own oral traditions, braiding arts and various hair designs.

The master, Candelario Obeso

You have to look up the master Candelario Obeso’s work, which has always stood for the contribution African cultures have had on Colombia. He wrote dramas, comedies, pedagogical texts and two novels, as well as articles related to Colombian politics of his time. He also translated Shakespeare’s Othelo and numerous plays by Victor Hugo, Byron, Must, and Longfellow among others.

The diffusion of Afro-Colombian thought

Angel Perea Escobar analyses and diffuses African thought and beauty through powerful writing that's full of flavor, without being condescending to its reader. Escobar is a true sweetheart, with him, the reviews and contexts of all the constellations of Afro-Colombian art and life are always backed by effective data. Recommended for anyone who’s interested in learning about the stellar Afro-Colombian universe.

Petronio Alvarez Festival. Photo by Sol Robayo via Flickr (under Creative Commons License).

The Pacific Coast

It’s impossible to go to Colombia and not experience the display of strength, power, and great Afro-Colombian cultural vibrations from the Pacific coast. The yearly Petronio Alvarez Festival in Cali is the best manifestation of the culture from that coast, whose seas, rivers and jungles irradiate wisdom and dignity year after year.

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré, an hour apart from Montelibano in the county of Córdoba, has an Afro-Colombian community that is known for protecting its memory and looks to project itself to the world.

Manuel Zapata Olivella

The legacy of the doctor, anthropologist, writer and researcher Manuel Zapata Olivella, is key to knowing the history of African people and cultures in Colombia. Changó, El Gran Putas, Chambacú Corral De Negros and La Rebelión De Los Genes are part of his work.

Systema Solar.

Audio
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.

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Courtesy of Cimarrón Productions

Cimarrón Is the Women-Led Film Production Company Empowering Afro-Colombians to Tell Their Own Stories

The "first Afro-Colombian film production company," is teaching filmmaking in Colombia's black communities in order to combat the lack of representation.

When filmmaker, activist, and cultural agent Heny Cuesta first started her career in Colombia, she noticed a severe lack of black creators in the industry. Cuesta, an Afro-Colombian originally from Cali, was the only Black woman in a room full of mestizo directors at a panel discussion at the International Film Festival in Cartagena de Indias (FICCI) in 2013.

"None of the filmmakers were black, but they were talking about ethnic content despite the fact that they didn't know the territory," says Cuesta. That scene shocked her, but it reflected the low number of movies directed by black directors in Colombia. In 2018, Colombia's film industry premiered 37 feature films and only one of them –Candelaria– was directed by a black director. It received many international awards.

The lack of blackness in Colombia's film industry goes far beyond studios, film festivals and production companies. Afro-Colombians make up almost 20 percent of the population but historically have had few opportunities to access education. Most black Colombians, who come from cities and towns along the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, have been neglected and isolated due to a lack of infrastructure, as well as a lack of education and job opportunities.

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Still from YouTube.

Yemi Alade Enlists Djimon Hounsou for New Music Video 'Remind You'

The veteran Beninese actor stars in the sultry music for Yemi Alade's latest single.

Yemi Alade shares her latest music video for her single "Remind You," and it stars none other than celebrated Hollywood actor Djimon Hounsou.

"Remind You" is a sultry R&B track from the singer's latest album, 2019's Woman of Steel. The vibrant music video, directed by Ovie Etseyatse, sees the singer gallivanting in an empty mansion in various elegant gowns. Honsou graces the screen throughout the video as well, but the two don't meet until the very end, when things take a funny and unexpected turn.

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Interview
Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

Interview: Afro Nation Festival's Smade On Unifying Africans Across the Continent & Diaspora

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Afro Nation co-founder Adesegun Adeosun aka Smade to talk about how it all started and what the future holds.

Within minutes of speaking with Adesegun Adeosun, it's apparent that Afro Nation is much more than an urban music festival.

The Afro Nation co-founder, better known as Smade, talks passionately about connecting Africans across the globe. In less than a year since its debut edition, Afro Nation has successfully done this and gone on to establish itself as the largest festival celebrating African culture on the continent and in the diaspora.

This year, Afro Nation will touch down in Puerto Rico for the first time over spring break—from the 18th to the 21st of March—on the beach of Balneario de Carolina. Headliners will include Burna Boy, Chronixx, Davido, 2Baba, Naira Marley and many more.

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Smade to talk about Afro Nation, how it all started and what the future holds.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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