This story begins 500 years ago with the first slave ships that arrived in Cartagena de Indias. They brought the Africans who, together with Indians, would create Cumbia music. They also brought the ancestors of the Batata, the most important dynasty of drummers in San Basilio de Palenque, as well as the black Maroons (runaway slaves) who would rebel against the Spanish and create “Palenques” (free towns), where they would develop a new musical language in America.
Cartagena was one of the most important Caribbean slave trading seaports for over 200 years. The slaves arrived from all the regions of Africa where slavery existed: Ashantys from Ghana, Ewe-Fon, Popos, Carabalis, Lucumis, Congos, Minas and Mandingas. In the colonial city there were cabildos (town halls) from Congo, Arará, Carabalí and other African nations. There was an enormous slave market with over 60 African ethnicities. Cartagena contained one of the most important seats of the Spanish Inquisition, where runaway slaves or witch doctors were condemned and burnt alive.
There were numerous slave rebellions in Colombia during this time period. Like many other Africans, in the sixteenth century, Benkos Bioho – the monarch of a tribe in East Africa – was brought by force to Cartagena to work in the construction of the colonial city. More than 500,000 Africans, including Bantous, Yorubas, and Mandigas passed through this slave port. Leading a hundred-strong group of black Maroons, Benkos fled and founded San Basilio de Palenque 70 kilometers away from Cartagena. For a long time the Palenque remained completely isolated from the rest of Colombian society. Today it is the only town in the Americas that has preserved an Afro-Hispanic language – the Palenquero, which is a Creole language with Bantu origins.
The Pacific coast of Colombia, whose current population is 90% black, was also home to many Palenques, where runaway slaves could live together in a sort of “free society.” Up until the abolition of slavery in 1852, there were over one hundred Palenques along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Many of the Palenques have survived until the present day, including San Pablo, Rocha, some parts of Maria la Baja, San Onofre in the Caribbean, and Tado, Guachené and Timbiquí in the Pacific, to name a few.
The Bantu influence was very strong in San Basilio de Palenque. Palenquero contains many Kikongo and Kimbundi words from the Congo-Angola region, the same area where Samagwana, Franco & Ok Jazz and Dr. Nico come from, and where rumba and soukous were born. The Bakongo heritage is thereby very important on the coast, which can be heard in the region’s rhythms. Without that African presence and the contribution of their culture that is only beginning to be recognized, Colombian music wouldn’t be the same. Most people don’t know that Colombia’s 10 million Afro-Colombians makes it the Spanish-speaking country with the largest black population in the world.
José de la Cruz Valdez, maraquero in the Sexteto Tabalá, describes the four main periods in Colombian music: “The first music in the entire world was the bullerengue (drums rhythm), then came the Porro (wind instruments) and later music played by gramophones. And the last thing to arrive is music on sound systems”
Colombia’s main rhythms were born during the Spanish colonization, including cumbia, bullerengue, chalupa, son de negro, tambora, cantos de vaqueria, chandé, currulao, abozao, chirimia… and many, many more. These sounds emerged from the contact between blacks, Indians, and mestizos. Music was linked to the rituals of marriage, life, death and celebrations honoring the patron saint. Funeral rhythms were immensely rich and led to the creation of bullerengue, chalupa, baile e’ muerto genres. The funeral ritual of the Lumbalú cabildo in San Basilio de Palenque included nine nights of music sung in Palenquero. Later on, brass instruments, trumpets, saxophones and tubas arrived from Europe, and around 1920, the accordion was brought from Germany. The time period that concerns us in this volume is the birth of Picós and its substantial influence on the development of Afro-Colombian music and champeta.
In the 1920s Palenque began to emerge from isolation. Palenqueros started working in the sugar mills or immigrated to Cartagena looking for a better economic situation. The country modernized and the Caribbean cities became poles of development.
In 1934 Discos Fuentes began to develop in the city of Cartagena. Between the 1950s and the 1960s, banda music, porro and fandango became very popular, and new groups like Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros were born. It was the golden age of porro, cumbia and big bands with the orchestras such as Pacho Galán, Clímaco Sarmiento and Lucho Bermudez. Costeño music fused with Caribbean music and produced now legendary recordings. In his record with Daniel Santos, Pedro Laza included musical tempos that come from Haiti, like compass, voodoo and rara. Pacho Galán created the merecumbé rhythm and reworked several classics from the calypso of Trinidad. Musical barriers stared to fall because of the common history, roots and territory of the great Caribbean.
THE PICÓS, THE MUSIC’S PRECURSORS
The first versions of local loudspeaker sound systems began to appear in the 50s. They were called “Picós” (from pick-up in English), and at first were nothing more than turntables. Since there was no amplified sound in those days, the majority of fiestas (parties) had music groups playing live. The arrival of electricity changed this dynamic, and the Picó loudspeakers brought with them new Antillean rhythms, salsa and Cuban music.
As the years passed sound systems were increasing the number of speakers they contained, the volume of the sound they could produce, and the variety of music they played. In 1972 travelers brought music from Haiti and Africa; one of the first to play this music was the “El Ciclón” sound system in Cartagena, as well as the “El Sibanicu” in Barranquilla. Some years later another the “El Conde” Picó arrived, a “musical machine” that was very important for the musical history of Cartagena and the Coast. Owned by Mr. Pacho Majon, its advertising and audio hooks (recorded on vinyl) claimed that it was “the bible of African music.”
“El Conde’s” legendary DJ Victor Conde recounts the history: “I started as a DJ in “El Ciclón” and then I changed to “El Conde,” which stood out because of its sound and music. We started African music with a record called “El Mambote” (“Mikolo Mileki Mingi,” from the Congolese Orchestre Veve) brought straight from Africa by an airline pilot; that was one of the first African records here in Cartagena. When I arrived in Palenque, it was as if a president had arrived, damn! One kilometer before getting into town people would receive the Picó; the kids would run after the truck singing the songs I had to play that night. The Palenqueros were the ones who named the songs according to what they understood, they were the force behind the process. The Picós had the power to break water jugs, blast open roofs, they would give you a toothache, it was strong my brother! One time, we were partying for 4 days straight in Palenque, and on the fifth day Kid Pambelé (boxing world champion) arrived, so imagine, we had to party for two more days!”
In Cartagena and Barranquilla highlife was extremely popular, from Prince Nico Mbarga to the best interpreters of the Igbo highlife (the Igbos are the second largest ethnic group in Nigeria after the Yorubas) like Oliver de Coque, Oriental Bothers & Sir Warrior, Imo Brothers, Kabaka International Guitar Band, Super Negro Bantoues, Ikenga Super Star of Africa and The Peacocks, who played in the “Ikwokirikwo” style. Soukous was also very successful, along with the music produced by Mbillia Bell with Tabu Ley Rochereau, the Ziglibithy of Ernesto Djedje (Côte d'Ivoire), and music from Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and basically every country in black Africa.
African records gave a Picó its prestige, and it could hold a record exclusively for 20 years before another Dj would be able to obtain the same record. Nowadays there are some excellent record collectors in the Atlantic coast of Colombia. They possess the real gems of African music and are the finest experts in the music from the 1970s & the 1980s. Afro-funky was also very successful, and groups like Polyrythmo or Gbledu Ambolley from Ghana were well known in the Coast. The histories of the Picós in the Colombian Atlantic coast and the history of reggae sound systems in Jamaica were very similar, and evolved at the same time.
DJ Victor Conde: “The Palenqueros’ hymn was the song “El Ejen” from the group Super Negro Bantoues (Igbo highlife from Nigeria). It was the hymn of old time champetuos, and it is still played a lot. At one party there I could only play one “jíbaro” (peasant son from Puerto Rico), the rest was just African music. I had to play a lot of Kabaka Int. Guitar Band, Oriental Brothers, Warrior, Victor Waifo… “El Conde” was the king of Palenque, for real. I’m talking about the period from 1974 to 1986; I retired undefeated.”
In the 1980s the first producers of champeta and labels like Felito Records began to travel to France and Africa to license music and buy records for the sound systems. Hundreds of records were released with incredible songs from diverse origins, ranging from Ethiopia to Liberia. They were sold to lower class people in popular markets. Donaldo García, Humberto Castillo, Felix Butron and Uvaldo Marin from “Rey de Rocha” traveled to Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa, Paris, Lisbon and London, bringing hits that several generations of champetuos would enjoy.
Osman Torregosa was another important character who had relatives in the city of Curaçao that would send him records, mostly 45’s. He fell in love with the music and started traveling to Curaçao; from there he would cross in a boat to Aruba and Bonaire. He would travel to more distant islands by plane; he went to Haiti, Jamaica, Guadeloupe and Barbados. He brought with him records like “La Cumbia Africana” and “Nalga Pégale,” originally by Voltage Huit (Haiti).
Humberto Castillo traveled constantly; he went to Guadeloupe looking for music from the DEBS label, or to Nigeria looking for the Roger All Stars and Decca’s catalog. He also traveled to the Congo, Cameroon and South Africa (Soul brothers and Mahotella are living legends in the coast) looking insatiably for the records that are today the classics of “African champeta” in Colombia. These people were real pioneers, sound-hunters with no frontiers. They published several records, all of them went into the poor neighborhoods of Cartagena. They didn’t have any visibility, and very few have had their contributions recognized in Colombia. They were the real pioneers of African music in Colombia and Latin America.
Champeta expert Nicolás Morrosquillo says: “The sense of power felt in the possession of a hit that the rival Picó did not have drove famous people in both cities like Osman Torregosa & Donaldo García (Barranquilla) and Jimmy “Melodía” Montalvo & Humberto Castillo (Cartagena) to travel to the West Indies, París or Africa looking for the ‘exclusive record.’ They followed the same ritual that all picoteros or DJs in the Coast did by scraping off the label from the record or throwing away the album cover so the others couldn’t find it, thereby keeping the exclusivity.”
These were the bases of a new cultural and musical movement that was rebellious and unpredictable: the Champeta Criolla. It was called Champeta because the people in the poor neighborhoods who danced to African music at the Picós had champetas (big knives). In the casetas (dance halls) big fights took place so people started calling the dancers “champetuo” and the music champeta. This has a symbolic meaning since African music is represented as a knife – something that hurts, kills, and cuts in two. This was reflected in reality because African music cut in two the history of the coastal Colombia. It was a moment of freedom for the contemporary black Maroons and the emergence of a new musical rhythm, unique in the world and in the Americas.
Dancers would baptize African songs with local names and new names were born like “la Pijama de mi Abuelo” (My grand father Pyjamas) “La canasta de Jordan” “El Vacile de los pelaos” “La Nalga Pegale” and many others. The Picó guys would throw the record cover away so nobody would know who the artist was. For years people knew of a song just by its local name. They also baptized African rhythms: “Nova” was the name for highlife, “Bocachiquero” for South African songs and “Rastrillo” for Kenyan songs because people said the guitar made a noise like that of a rake.
As seaports, Cartagena and Barranquilla are exceptional cities on the Caribbean. As it is commonly known, musical intersections are born in port cities, the new rhythms of tomorrow. Highlife and Palm Wine were born in the dance halls of Accra, African salsa grew up in Dakar…In Cartagena, foreign sailors, travelers and businessmen of all kinds converged in this small baroque city, full of contrasts, rhythms and realities.
THE AFRO-CARIBBEAN PSYCHEDELIA
Colombia experienced the hippie era in the 1970s. It was the time of Woodstock, rock groups sprouted up in Bogotá and Medellín; salsa, vallenato and yéyé were at their very peak. In the middle of all of this new music arrived from Africa and the Caribbean.
African songs were so successful in the coast that Fuentes and other labels like Felito, Tropical and Machuca decided to record local versions. Bands were created to record covers: Fuentes created “Wganda Kenya” and Tropical Records published the LP “Black Africa” with the group Palmeras Africanas. Some of these groups recorded one or two songs and then disappeared, like Banda Africana, Kassimbas Negras, and Aguilas Rojas.
Psychadelic music emerged at the end of the 1970s with groups like Manuel Alvares and his Dangers, Estrellas del Caribe, Abelardo Carbonó, Aguilas Rojas, Lisandro Meza, Cumbia Siglo XX, Wganda Kenya and many others that represented the spirit of the Colombian afro-psychedelia. The Picós played an important role in this movement since the majority of the songs that Wganda Kenya and other bands recorded became popular thanks to the Picós in the poor neighborhoods of Cartagena and the rest of the Atlantic coast.
Afro-psychedelic music was a mix of Latin and Caribbean rhythms, salsa, rock and socca; all these were highly influenced by African, Haitian, Caribbean, Brazilian and even Arab records that came to Cartagena. The DJ's of that time were eclectic and very demanding in their selection of songs. The groups of that time recorded covers of music from Haiti, Ethiopia, Fela Kuti and Rod Stewart (Do you think I’m sexy, by Banda Los Hijos de la Niña Luz, Soundway SNDW7006, single 7”) in a musical passion that knew no bounds. Most of these productions were released by groups that have remained obscure up until today.
La Costa was a musically voracious region. In the streets of poor neighborhoods you could listen to Ska-Sha (Haiti), Mahotella Queens or Oliver de Cocque, hits of yesterday that everybody knows.
COLOMBIA: FIRST AFROBEAT NATION OUTSIDE AFRICA
In the 1960s James Brown toured Africa (Nigeria-Ghana; he would go to Congo in 1974 for the Muhammed Ali – Georges Foreman fight), as well and Lord Kitchener with the calypso of Trinidad. Africans integrated these rhythms in highlife and other genres which were born during the wave of African independence. Some forget the closeness and the strong bonds that unite highlife with Afrobeat; Afrobeat comes from highlife, and highlife has elements of afrobeat; Fela even started as a highlife musician. The rhythmic section of Afrobeat is also present in several ethnic groups and countries of Africa, from Togo to Congo, in the traditional music of Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, Ewe Fon and many others ethnicities.
In 1972 Fela released the record ‘Shakara.’ At that time in Nigeria, Fela Kuti, Geraldo Pino, Peter King and lots of other bands explored the sound of Afrobeat and African funk. Between 1974 and 1976 the firsts songs of Fela Kuti arrived in Colombia, becoming hits in the Coast through the “El Conde” and “El Ciclón” Picós. Soon “Shakara” became an anthem with a huge impact on people’s consciousness.
But Afrobeat is not only comprised of Fela. Highlife-Afrobeat songs from Sir Warrior, Oliver de Cocque and Dele Abioudun had already arrived in Cartagena. Even King Sunny Ade made Afrobeat-Juju in his record “Synchro System.” Artists like Bright Chimezie (Highlife) or Dele Abioudun (Juju), each in their own genre, incorporated Afrobeat into their musical language and appropriated elements from Fela into different rhythms, including in Apalá (traditional Yoruba music). Dan Satch, leader of Oriental Brothers (highlife), also recorded Afrobeat songs with his group Atomic 8 Dance Band.
Afrobeat quickly started to be recorded in Colombia. In the middle of the 1970s the group “Phirpo y sus Caribes” in Medellín recorded a stunning cover of Fela’s “Let’s start”, under the Spanish name “Comencemos” (Soundway SNDW7005, single 7”). Wganda Kenya also emerged in that decade in a confluence of musical stars around the afro-psychedelia project under the direction of Julio “Fruko” Estrada.
The musicians from Wganda Kenya were paid monthly and they recorded everyday at Fuentes in Medellín. As Gustavo García “Pantera,” the group’s trombonist tells us: “we lived in the same place, played football and recorded.” This group had the best sidemen of the era (like Carlos Piña, saxophone player), with musicians from Latin Brothers and Fruko Orchestra, like timbalero Rafael Benítez. They recorded the firsts Afrobeat and Afrofunk songs that were ever made in Colombia, led by Julio Ernesto Estrada, the great Fruko. In the chorus were Wilson Manyoma and Joe Arroyo, the same Joe that would later record many Haitian covers from Jean Claude Sylvain, Gesner Henry and Kassav (“Marie Helen” as “Musa Original”, “Teresa Rock It” as “Teresa Vuelve” among others). These songs would later become hits that had his own style: the “Joe-son.”
Meanwhile, in Barranquilla, Abelardo Carbonó recorded classics from Haiti and the French Caribbean from groups like “Les Rapaces” or Voltage Huit that would be released by the Machuca label under the name “Le groupe d’Abelard“… Just as if it was a group from Port au Prince!
Around 1981 several groups were recording Afrobeat in Barranquilla. One of the first was Carbonó, which recorded several tracks, including “Quiero a mi gente”, and “Schalcarri”. In 1986, the group Las Kassimbas Negras with Palenque singer Dionisio Miranda recorded a fascinating track called “El Barrumbumbum,” a blend of Palenquero sounds with African guitar and bass. There was also Pedro “Ramayá” Beltrán, a famous millo flute player, who recorded a stunning version of an African song called “Puyalo Ahí” ( and a “Shakara” cover). Lisandro Meza recorded a version of Fela Kuti’s “Shakara'i'nde place in Coastal Colombia 1975-1985Shakara,” combined with local folklore and the millo flute, turning it into a Caribbean standard. Cumbia Moderna did another great version, as well as Wganda Kenya (“Shalaode”). Shakara became the hit song of that time, and Costeños called it “Ritmo Sacalao.” Wganda Kenya recorded other songs like “Pimpom” where one can clearly see Fela’s musical influence. Joe Arroyo evolved too, but instead he chose the fusion of salsa with Haitian music and recorded some songs that remain classics to this day.
“La champeta de Felito” from Felito Records is an emblematic record from this period, with songs like “El Manaye” from Rabel y su Grupo; “Yeye” from the Aguilas Rojas and the “Burrumbumbum.” Machuca, Discos Tropical, Orbe and Costeño released other defining records.
Artists like Son Palenque, Cumbia Siglo XX or La Cumbia Moderna de Soledad recorded some thrilling songs that readapted Afrobeat rhythms within the rhythms of the Caribbean coast. These were the beginnings of champeta, a musical movement born in the working classes of the Coast in a time when world music was not even a dream, and Afrobeat was barely known in Europe. This compilation is a mirror of the afro-Caribbean music of the 1980s, a retrospective of the musical landscape of the golden era of afro-Caribbean psychedelia.
Because of this history, we can say that Colombia was the first country outside of Africa where Afrobeat was recorded since the middle of the 1970s, and where this music was reborn under other horizons. Some of the songs recorded in Colombia are not an orthodox style of Afrobeat, and that makes them even more intriguing. They have their own identity, and their use of their own instruments and styles make them very original. It is a reinvention of Afrobeat in Colombia, mixed with the Caribbean psychedelia. Other songs like the ones recorded by Wganda Kenya are more faithful to the original Nigerian Afrobeat model.
Record labels from that time recorded lots of African songs; it was the golden age of “champeta roots.” This genre is the reflection of a strong African heritage, of a culture with unbreakable ties to Africa. Musicians were going against the mainstream, recording very strange and innovative music, and sometimes being criticized for it by everyone. They didn’t know they were ahead of the entire world that would succumb to the strength of Afrobeat music 30 years later, on the vanguard of a movement that would resurface with the Afrobeat bands that were born in Europe, the USA and even Japan at the beginning of the 21st century. Most of these songs were very underground at the time. They were odd tunes that everybody forgot and that today reveal the strength and buried musical history of the initial champeta. It was a time when lots of vinyl was produced and the music business was thriving.
Another important influence for musicians in the Coast was the music from Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique with groups like Coupe Cloue, Dp Express and Shleu Shleu. Gwoka groups from Guadeloupe influenced bands like Palmeras Africanas and Son Palenque. The Haiti sound was key in this process as it had a rhythm that was similar to the sound of Colombian banda. Hits like “La Sirene” of Sheu Shleu, “L’horoscope en Moine” from Henry Debs and “Rio Sena” from Jean François Bebey produced waves. Wganda Kenya also recorded some Haitian covers like “El Aluminio” of Ti Jacques or “Sho Sho” from “Ti Emile”, stamping his very own mark on these great recordings.
THE PIONEERS OF AFRO ROOTS IN COLOMBIA
The Coast is the land of music collectors and lovers. Barranquilla is a city with a strong musical culture that breathes music ubiquitously. People listened to African songs and combined them with their own rhythms, Haitian rhythms or with the music of the Caribbean. Soon they wanted to record that style of music, swimming against the tide and against the musical tendencies of the time, which leaned more towards salsa and tropical music.
Abelardo Carbonó was one of African music’s first guitarists, recording songs for the Picó “El Rey” and several producers like Felito, Sonolux and Codiscos. His records were exceptional, made with an authentic rhythmical vivaciousness. Abelardo was an ex-policemen, but a real avant-garde musician for his time and creator of unique masterpieces. Today he plays in Anibal Velásquez’s orchestra.
Another group on this compilation is “Los Soneros de Gamero,” led by the black singer Irene Martínez. In the 1980s bullerengue and chalupa singers from the coast were very successful. Singers like Estefanía Caicedo, La Niña Emilia, Carolina Herrrera and others formed part of this wave. In the song “Katunga” they explore a new and innovative direction.
In 1979 in Cartagena, Justo Valdez founded Son Palenque. Justo was the son of “Ataole” a popular tambour player from Palenque, and was also part of the Batata family, the Valdez Salgado. They were part of the new generation of Palenqueros who immigrated to the big city. They recorded their first single in 1982 for the record label Orbe and were considered pioneers since most of their songs were sung in Palenquero. Ataole died, but the group continued and recorded two LPs for Felito where they incorporated percussion from Palenque with influences from Africa, the French Caribbean and soukous from Congo. Here we find three songs “El Sapo,” and “Palenque Palenque” (with Michi Sarmiento on Sax!!) recorded by Eduardo Dávila, and “Dame un Trago” recorded by Alfonso Abril. These two LPs opened a new path for Afro-Colombian music that the group has continued to explore until today. A new album from this great band is coming soon on Palenque Records.
Another big catalyst for the musical fever of the 1980s in the Coast was Cartagena’s Music Festival of the Caribbean. Numerous artists like Coupe Cloue, Loketo & Aurlus Mabelle, Bopol Mansiamina, Kanda Bongo Man and Burning Spear were invited. People from Cartagena had the opportunity to see Africans play, such as that famous night when Aurlus Marbelle and Loketo (soukous from Congo) invited Joe Arroyo on stage during an unforgettable concert in the bullring.
Another important group was Cumbia Siglo XX, directed by Fernando Rosales with the singer Ramiro Beltran. They recorded about 6 records, including big hits like “Nalga pegale,” “El Esqueleto,” or “El Manicero.” Sometimes they sound like a traditional group on acid; their music is highly original. Cumbia Siglo XX is the equivalent of PIL in the world of psycho cumbia with its surrealist songs. They were from Soledad, a town nearby Barranquilla, the birthplace of musicians and groups like “La Cumbia Moderna.”
FELITO RECORDS AND COSTEÑO PSYCHEDELIA
In the 1980s in Barranquilla, Felix Butrón established Felito Records, which played a vital role in the development of psychedelia and afro-roots in the Coast. Some record labels like Fuentes or Codiscos in Medellín made interpretations of Cumbia that were easier on the ear, so it could be popular in the interior of the country, where the population was more white and indigenous, like the capital city of Bogotá at that time. As a result, a more Andean version of Cumbia was born called chucu chucu, produced by artists like Pastor Lopez. Colombia is a country divided by regions where culture and music change radically, so the music from the interior has little to do with the music of the Pacific or the Caribbean.
Felito recorded for a Costeño audience, and he produced incredible recordings resulting in an authentic record collection of great artistic quality. Michi Sarmiento, an excellent musician and composer from Cartagena, Abelardo Carbonó, Peter Vicentini, Dolcey Gutierrez and other important musicians worked as sidemen for many of the record label’s productions. In some of these recordings we can appreciate the beauty and inspiration of Michi Sarmiento on saxophone.
Felito was a real music lover, and he liked to travel to villages looking for groups to record. He had an excellent studio, sixteen-track analog – “The Shrine of the Perfect Sound” as is written on the records – and a huge set of speakers on his patio, like those of a Picó. There he would do tests for his productions as if it were a neighborhood party. Eduardo Dávila was one of the sound engineers that worked most of these recordings; he was an exceptional music technician and a great producer. Perhaps he was the Lee Perry of Barranquilla for his excellent, psychedelic and experimental productions. Alfonso Abril was another sound engineer who pioneered Colombian sound and recorded and mixed with CBS and Philips. Felito died in 1992 and so did this era of musical production.
In the early 1980s Rafael Machuca founded the label Machuca; he was considered the king of afro-psychedelia and FACE B music. The label existed for about 10 years up to his death, leaving some real treasures of musical creativity. Alfonso Abril says that Machucha was quite an original guy: “He used to say that between one and five in the morning the earth creaks and so he would listen to the melodies of those “earth sounds” and later he would call some drummers and they’d start writing music and playing…” Machuca was a pioneer in several areas, recording lots of African covers during the first period of champeta.
The label Tropical was founded by Emilio Torthui in the 1950s. Its catalogue is gigantic and at a certain point it was more successful than Fuentes and Codiscos. However, in the 1990s the musical wave changed and this psychedelia movement quickly disappeared. The movement ended there, with the coming of other recording techniques and the arrival of a new era: today’s champeta criolla.
New groups emerged like Anne Swing with its leader Viviano Torres, or Estrellas del Caribe in Palenque. Some sound systems created their own record labels, inaugurating the champeta recording industry, such as in the Bazurto market of Cartagena, which we can appreciate in the two compilations of “Champeta Criolla Vol 1& 2,” released by Palenque Records (PAL 1086 / PAL 1087). The young people that emerged from the ghettos of Cartagena and Barranquilla sang the soukous of Zaire, like the “schegues” (street kids) would do in Kinshasa at the same time. The histories of two brother nations evolved at the same time, in similar ways. Pepe Kalle, Prince Nico Mbarga and Mbillia Bell would be the new kings of African music in the Colombian Caribbean.
African songs were recorded again by the new champeta singers. They used new voices and arrangements and remixed the rhythms in a Jamaican style. Soukous was at its peak, and the new champeta has embraced the influence of highlife and South African mbaqanga.
The champeta is currently reinventing itself between past and present, and we hope that one day it will come back to its original purpose, like a snake biting its own tail.
In this compilation you will listen to the first champeta songs ever recorded in Colombia, which unlike contemporary popular champeta, incorporates the roots of the musical tradition. These recordings are amazingly modern and full of various influences, like a world map of afro-world music. These are the real “champeta roots” from Afro-Colombia.
DJ Champeta man original