Two Afro-Colombian Documentaries

On Youtube, I found parts of two musical documentaries made in France (and/or with French subtitles). One is about the famous Palenquero percussionist Paulino Salgado, otherwise known as “Batata”, and the other is about champeta music and San Basilio de Palenque (which I’ve discussed in other posts). The second video shown has English subs.

Another Part

Another Part


Champeta – Colombian Soukous

Recently, I wrote about the Palenque near Cartagena and while I wanted to include Champeta music in that post, I decided it would be best to split them up so that any one post won’t seem overwhelming to the reader.

“Forty years ago, sailors coming from Africa arrived in the Colombian Caribbean city Cartagena, bringing with them albums like the music of Prince Nico Mbarga (Cameroon-Nigeria), the Oriental Brothers (Nigeria), Tabu Ley Rochereau & Mbilia Bell from Congo, and a long list of the “Highlife Master Messagers”. Thanks to these anonymous travelers, and to the vitality of my AfroColombian brothers who have made African music the rhythm of their hearts, in less than 10 years Colombia has become the “Soukouss Republic of America”. Today, these African stars provide major inspiration for thousands of youth who dream of forming their own groups to play Soukous, Highlife & Afro-beat in the streets of Colombia. The irrefutable fathers of this music are the black maroons from the San Basilio village of Palenque, near Cartagena. Viviano Torres with his group Anne Swing, Justo Valdes & Son Palenque, the group Kussima with Hernan Hernandez without them, this musical movement would not exist today.” – Maroon Culture

More Info

Wikipedia (Soukous)

Wikipedia (Champeta)

The word “Champeta” was first used as a cultural identifier in the 1920s, it was used to identify a dance in the 1970s and a musical genre in the 1980s.

Since before the 1920s the inhabitants of the neighborhoods farthest from the center of Cartagena, those of the poorest social strata and of African descent have been called ‘champetudo’. The economic elite used this designation as an attempt to devalue this vibrant culture. The name, ambiguously accepted and transformed, originates from the relationship of these people, with the knife called “champeta”, as it was associated with vulgarity, poverty and blackness. This culture has a past historically marked with slavery and mistreatment with its center in the oldest districts of the Isla Caimán, currently called Olaya, and the Pozón district.

At the beginning of the 1970s the Champeta culture became more visible at a national level in Colombia through a series of diverse and complex dances set to the rhythms of Caribbean music. This music was principally a mix of genres such as salsa and jíbaro but later included reggae. This music was played over large loudspeakers, popularly called “picós”, that were invented during the 1960s in Cartegena. Equipped with these sound systems they held dancce competitions and other events. Those dances were called “therapy” because of their ability help people to relax and free themselves from the economic problems of the country.

In the 1980s “creole therapy” became a new genre of music, sung and interpreted by people from Cartegena and San Basillo, later joined by people from Barranquilla, Santa Marta and the rest of the country. Baranquilla played an important role in the commercialization of this genre of music. Subsequently, the music became popular in picós. Soon, it was known as “creole therapy”, “Colombian therapy” and finally, Champeta.

Palenque: Colombia’s 1st free black community

Back in August of last year, I wrote about an article I had read on a Colombian Palenque near Cartagena, but the link is now defunct. Here’s what I wrote along with a part of the article plus a 1992 documentary, which is why I’m reposting it.

There was an interesting story over at Colombia Journal (now nonexistent) on what has been deemed the first free black community of the Americas living along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Here’s the intro…

“Four hundred years ago, Afro-Colombians living along Colombia’s Caribbean coast would cry when a child was born because the youth was destined to suffer a life of slavery under Spanish colonial rule. And when an Afro-Colombian died, people would engage in a nine-day and nine-night wake to celebrate the deceased’s return to Africa. Back then it appeared that death was the only path to liberation. But today, parents in the remote village of San Basilio de Palenque no longer cry when their children are born thanks to the bravery and resilience of their ancestors, who successfully gained freedom from the Spanish crown in 1603.”

“1992 documentary on the Caribbean Colombian Maroon Community of San Basilio Palenque located near Cartagena in the department of Bolivar. The focus is on present day descendants of African maroons who resisted against the Spaniards and claimed their liberty early during the colonial era with the escape of slavery and establishment of free communities termed palenques also known as maroon communities in English. This particular community was founded by the maroon leader Benkos Bioho, which is a hero to many Colombians of African heritage.”

Introducing Maria Mulata

Maria Mulata is a band from Colombia that plays a musical style called Bullerengue which is a traditional style from the Atlantic coast. The music comes from San Basillo de Palenque on the coast which was the first free black community in the Americas. The lead singer of Maria Mulata is Diana Hernandez and she studied in the most famous musical conservatory in Bogota. Here are two videos showcasing the style and dance.

Maria Mulata – Me Duele El Alma

Maria Mulata – Marianita