Colombians in Stockholm

I’m currently doing research for a feature on Totó La Momposina, who retired from performing last month at the age of 82, and found this fine response from photographer Nereo López in an oral biography of Gabriel García Márquez that was published online in the Paris Review. This is López talking about the Colombian contingent that accompanied García Márquez to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982:

We formed a delegation with the director of Colcultura in order to accompany the Nobel Laureate to Sweden. Singers like La Negra Grande and Toto, la Momposina; folk groups, a group from Barranquilla and a group from the Valle Province. There were 150 of us. They had told the vallenato musicians that Swedish girls went ape over Latin American men, so the guys went there ready, willing, and able to screw all the Swedish girls that crossed their paths. On the third day we said, “Hey, we haven’t gotten any calls yet. ” Seeing that the mountain wasn’t coming to Mohammed, we took Mohammed to the mountain, and we went to a striptease joint. What a joke! They were a bunch of nuns, all covered up, flashing an occasional breast. We were lodged onboard a comfortable but inexpensive ship while the guests of honor were put up in a first-class hotel. It was so cold, one of our crowd wanted to leave. He said: “The thing is that I have a problem and I need your help. When I go outside to take a leak I don’t find my penis.” He wondered how on earth he was going to go back to his country, where he had three women to respond to. When I asked him where he went to release himself, he told me that he went on deck. I told him that with four or five inches of snow, it was only natural for his penis to hide. I told him, “For goodness sake, man, what’s the matter with you? There is a bathroom downstairs.” At a restaurant, the woman behind the counter let out a shriek because Escalona was going to drink the vinaigrette, thinking it was some sort of fruit juice: “You’re drinking the salad dressing!” Aracataca had arrived in Stockholm!

Afrobeats Feature in Songlines

Man, I need to update this blog more. So many articles have been and gone, and perhaps not has as much love on here as they deserve.

One of my latest is a piece on Afrobeats for Songlines. I’d been wanting to write something on Afrobeats for a year or so after being seriously impressed by some of the pop music I heard coming out of Africa.

This was a chance to get a bit deeper into the subject, and thanks must be laid out to Chief Boima and Antoinette Isama, who were crucial in helping me put this one together.

The article is in Songlines #164, which is out now!

Peruvian Rock Article on Long Live Vinyl Website

Hey, so some time ago now, possibly last year, or maybe even 2018 or earlier, I wrote an article about Peruvian rock for Long Live Vinyl, a magazine which was recently killed off by COVID-19.

At some point Long Live Vinyl put the article up on their website, albeit with the credits for any photos, or even annotations for what each photo is about, non existent. Anyway, you can still read it. Here’s the link:

Sounds and Colours is 10 Years Old and We’re Raising Some Money…

10 years ago I started Sounds and Colours in my parent’s spare room. I can’t find the list of original names there was for the site – though I’m sure there was something along the lines of Banana Milk or Tropical Treason amongst them (so I think I made the right choice). I wasn’t sure of the plan at first, other than I needed to find a way of writing about a LOT of Latin American music that I was loving but that there was little information I could find out about, at least in English (here’s looking at Os Novos Baianos, Eduardo Mateo and Ney Matogrosso, to name a few off the top of my head). Then people started getting in touch and wanted to write for the blog too, and I realised there was a big community of like-minded souls in London, New York and spread out across the world, and it took off, at least as much as a niche-interest website can.

I feel very fortunate that it’s loved by so many people these days, and that I get to work with so many amazing collaborators, including all our writers and all the artists, musicians, record companies, PRs, events promoters, other media, etc., etc., that are part of this community we’ve found ourselves in.

We’re now in a position where it feels like we can really push Sounds and Colours to another level, to make it an even better resource for Latin culture (esp. as there is so much incredible content on the site, but which can be hard to find) and to get involved in different types of content (podcasts, short docs, big research projects, regular compilations, online film festivals, and we have many other ideas too!)

So to celebrate our 10th anniversary we’ve launched a fundraiser, with all money raised going towards making Sounds and Colours even bigger and better. As part of that campaign, you can buy our compilation of new Latin American music (have a listen:…/sounds-and-colours-…), pre-order a 10 Years anniversary book and also buy some amazing perks donated by Mr Bongo, Mais Um, And Other Stories, Songlines, Names You Can Trust, ZZK Records / Zizek Club, Peace & Rhythm, Discos Rolas, Movimientos and Soundway Records, as well as grab a few choice items from my record collection!

You can find out more about the campaign at…/sounds-and-colours-10…/x/627815…

Thanks for reading!

Quipomundo Is Go! / El Dragón Criollo in Afropop

Every now and again I get asked to run music PR campaigns for upcoming releases, so I figured the time was now right to make things a bit more official and set up a brand for doing just that.

Hence, here’s Quipomundo, a new company specialised in Global Music PR. Led by myself, but also using frequent collaborators as needs be.

My first campaigns are for El Palmas Music, a record label based in Barcelona led by Venezuelan Maurice Aymard. Maurice has been releasing music in various forms for many years, but with El Palmas he is focusing on music close to his roots, getting into tropical sounds, and they have some exciting releases on the horizon.

One of these is a split 7″ single featuring tracks by two Colombian producers, El Dragón Criollo and La Jungla. You can listen to the tracks here.

I’m also very excited that, as part of the campaign for this release, Afropop agreed to premiere the video on their site.

Check out their site to watch the video and find out more about the release.

Sounds and Colours’ Best Albums of 2019

As is always the case myself and the rest of the Sounds and Colours team (which just keeps on growing!) ran a poll to find out our favourite albums of the year at the end of last year, resulting in our list of the 25 Best Albums of 2019, a fine selection to some of the great things that came out of Latin America and its diaspora last year.

We also put together this Spotify playlist featuring tracks from our favourite albums:

New Role as Songlines News Editor

Very happy to say that I recently took on a new role as Songlines News Editor which means I will be in charge of putting together the News section of Songlines magazine every month, starting from the March edition.

So, if you have any ground-breaking and/or scintillating news on world music please send it my way.

Latin Jazz Article in The Vinyl Factory

A little while ago I wrote an article for the Vinyl Factory, picking out some of my favourite Latin Jazz albums, which has just gone live. This one got a little controversy on the Vinyl Factory Facebook page as some felt that Latin jazz should be limited to jazz focused on Afro-Cuban rhythms. This seems a bit restrictive to me, as it excludes all jazz made from across Latin America that takes its cues from elsewhere. Clearly, there is also an established genre of Brazilian jazz, which could have been excluded from this list, but again, by very definition, Brazilian jazz should be included within the genre as it’s jazz that takes inspiration or has its roots in Latin rhythms and instrumentation.

See what I chose below:

That Brazilian Beat

It seems I can never quite get away from Latin music (not that I’d want to anyway). While recently reading Ken Emerson’s book Always Magic in the Air, brushing up on New York pop music from the 50s and 60s (songwriters like Bacharach and David, Lieber and Stoller, Goffin and King, and Mann and Weil) it was pointed out that the rhythm to Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, The Drifters “Under The Boardwalk” and The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” all stemmed from the Brazilian baião beat (written in Emerson’s book as the Anglicised baion). Listening to these tracks now, this is blatantly obvious, but I guess I never put the pieces together. Just listen to that opening gambit from “Be My Baby” or the rhythm of “Stand By Me”, whose scraper is clearly influenced by Latin music too:

Emerson puts the influence of Latin music on primarily Jewish songwriters and producers like Leiber & Stoller and Phil Spector as being down to their proximity to Latin communities, such as the Puerto Ricans, in New York, as well as the popularity of baião beat, which had arrived from Brazil. Little is said about exactly how this beat arrived in the US though some quick Google searches reveal that the performance of “El Negro Zumbón” in the 1952/53 Italian movie Anna may have been one of the first instances of it being heard in the States. Here’s that track below:

I think I may have to do some more digging on how this beat, which originated in the north-east of Brazil, was defined and popularised by the rural singer/songwriter Luiz Gonzaga, reaching national fame there in the 40s and 50s, and then found its way north to become a hugely important rhythm in global pop music. Definitely an interesting avenue to explore.

Writing and Editing by Latin American music expert Russell Slater