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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Interview
Photo: Mariela Alvarez.

Interview: ÌFÉ Blends Music & Religion to Honor Those Who Have Died During the Pandemic

Producer and percussionist Otura Mun talks about his latest EP, The Living Dead, and how he traces the influences of West Africa in his new work.

There are bands that open up a spiritual world through their music. ÌFÉ is one example. An electro-futurist band that fuses Afro-Cuban rhythms and Jamaican dancehall with Yoruba mystical voices. With the success of their 2017 debut album "IIII+IIII" (pronounced Eji-Ogbe), ÌFÉ has reached an audience that is looking for Caribbean and contemporary sounds.

The Puerto Rican-based band just released a new EP, The Living Dead- Ashé Bogbo Egun, that aims to heal and honor those who have died during this pandemic.Otura Mun, the band leader, is an African-American producer and percussionist, who began a personal journey about a decade ago, when he landed in San Juan, and decided to move there. He learned Spanish, dug deep into his African ancestry and started to practice the Yoruba-Caribbean religion of Santería.

ÌFÉ, which means "love and expansion" in Yoruba, ties two worlds, music and religion, artistically. This new EP modernized prayer songs to hopefully make them more accessible to a younger generation. OkayAfrica spoke with Otura Mun on his latest work.

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