Music
Photo: Daniela Murillo.

Picós Sound Systems: A Nostalgic African Sound in Colombia

Barranquilla has become a catalyst of African rhythms in the Colombian and Caribbean coast.

On January 1 the annual pre-carnival festivities officially began for the carnival that will take place this year at the end of March in Barranquilla, Colombia. Picós (from the English for “pick-up”) are at the heart of these parties taking place in the streets, houses and venues in various popular neighborhoods in Barranquilla and Soledad (a city on the outskirts of Barranquilla).

These retro sound systems, also called turbos, are decorated with fluorescent colors. They have been a symbol and identity of the city for a long time. The ethnomusicologist and musician Andrés Gualdrón says, “The picó sound system was used to musicalize parties, festivals and Carnival festivities in Cartagena and Barranquilla.”

“The presence of records from the African continent started in 1970 in various picós along the Caribbean coast,” says Gualdrón, who has been studying the origins of champeta music. In Colombia these vinyl arrived mostly to Cartagena and Barranquilla thanks to music collectors.

“There were plenty of people bringing African vinyl like Osman Torregrosa and Donaldo García who made a lot of trips into Haití, Guadalupe, Curazao and bought these records in foreign languages,” adds Gualdrón.

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Afro-Latino
Foto por "El Murcy" — Jeison Riascos

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For the English version of this article head here.

Una mujer está sentada en frente de su quiosco lleno de pescado fresco en el mercado, a la orilla del río Atrato. A pesar de su tapabocas, su cara revela desolación y expectativa, emociones muy comunes en estos momentos para los que luchan contra la pandemia del COVID-19 en Quibdó, la capital del Chocó, una región que acoge a muchos afrocolombianos e indígenas.

El fotoperiodista Jeison Riascos tomó esta imagen mientras documentaba el brote en su ciudad natal, en el occidente del país. Es periodista independiente de El Espectador, uno de los principales medios del país, y su trabajo ha aparecido en el New York Times, AFP y muchos medios locales. También es uno de los creadores de Talento Chocoano, una página web que cuenta las historias más destacadas de la región del Chocó.

Riascos es conocido como "Murcy", diminutivo de murciélago en español. Aunque no ha estado en contacto con murciélagos recientemente, sí ha estado muy cerca del COVID-19. Con más de un millón de infectados hasta este momento (según cifras del 9 de junio), Latinoamérica está emergiendo como el nuevo epicentro global del nuevo brote de coronavirus y, en Colombia, más de 1350 personas han muerto y más de 42.000 se han infectado de acuerdo al Instituto Nacional de Salud, INS (según cifras reportadas hasta el 9 de junio de 2020).

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