Afro-Colombian Rappers Vie for Grammy

“For the descendants of African slaves who populate Colombia’s poorest, most corruption-ridden corner, music has long been the most natural of distractions from a very hard life.

And so it is for ChocQuibTown, a soulful, hip-hop trio in the running for the year’s best Latin-Rock/Alternative Album at the Grammys on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Their music is a soapbox that you dance to.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” (Where I Come From), which won Best Alternative Song at the Latin Grammys in November, is a spirited lament of the hard-luck life: multinationals and corrupt politicians get rich off gold and platinum; poor blacks get run off their land by illegal militias.

Forty-five percent of the 450,000 inhabitants of the band’s home province of Choco, which is along Colombia’s northwest coast bordering Panama, has been uprooted, while 70 percent live on less than a dollar a day. Paved streets, electricity and running water are rare.” – ABC News (more here)


The Chocó chimes in

In the midst of doing some research on Colombia today, one thing led to another and I ended up on the topic of music from the Chocó, both traditional and modern. Through the documentary by anthropologist Ana María Arango called “Los Sonidos Invisibles” (which you can watch here), I came across the more traditional type and by exploring it, I was able to find a band that would appeal to younger generations. First, I have translated the synopsis of the documentary and placed it below.

“The invisible sounds expose the musical life and the town festivals of the Chocó – one of the poorest and most stigmatized regions of Colombia. Going beyond merely visualizing the well-known problems of the region: war, the “misery” and the exploitation, this documentary tells us of the subtle forms of domination and resistance through music, where the song converts itself into a mirror of the culture.

Octavio Panesso (musician, composer and idealist) stars in this short film; his experiences and those of his friends allow us to understand how the teachings of Father Isaac Rodríguez from the Spanish Claretian missionaries, were used by the musicians as tools for reclaiming and strengthening what it means to be black and Chocoano through celebrations, popular music and the lyrics of the songs.”

As for the previously-mentioned modern Chocoan music, the band I recommend is called ChocQuibTown, who were just at the annual SXSW event in Austin singing one of their hits, Pescao Envenenao.

More Info

Los Sonidos Invisibles (in SP)
Músicos del Chocó (in SP)
De Donde Vengo Yo (another song by ChocQuibTown)