Hosts Arjuna (dj smokestack), Jacobo (dj pozole), Federico (dj papicultor), and May-Li (dj china tu madre) welcome special guest Daniel French from one of the hottest bands from East LA Las Cafeteras to La Sala. Our vinyl journey begins with classic sounds from Egypt then continues onto Tanzania, Zaire and Colombia before returning to California to connect the old with the new.
Please excuse our recent absence from this space. We’ve been doing some remodeling and maintenance, but we’re back now! We’re still very excited to continue sharing more music and culture. In fact, last week we got together and recorded our very first Pelangacast live from our LP clubhouse! The concept is not to have the typical radio “programmed show,” but instead to invite you into our cozy wall-to-wall collection of culture on vinyl as we share stories and discoveries from our musical addictions.
Below is our first episode with more to come soon. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.
Advice – I. C. Rock
Ce La Vie – Les Difficiles De Pétion-Ville
Ah Ah Oh No – La Protesta (ft. Joe Arroyo)
El Preso – Louis Towers [NOTE: This unlabeled record was in a Grupo Kuwait sleeve, but it’s actually Louis Towers]
(Where Were You) Last Night – Sumy
Banana Juana – Ralph Robles
Guami Guami – Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Melody Maestros
This is as good a month as any to invite Alejo Durán, el Rey Negro Vallenato, to tell us a bit of American history. This is “Los Hermanos Negros”, from the album I posted a few weeks ago
That reminds me of “El Indio Sinuano”, a strong, proud track on Zenú history written by David Sánchez Juliao. It’s a simple thing, but the break at 3:20 is one of my favorites in vallenato. I don’t think I have the energy to translate the lyrics to the English speakers, but I’m sure the internet does. You can find them here
Este post va para Carlos Mendoza — el joven inquieto de 51 años que está tratando de redefinir el sonido de la música chilena de Oaxaca desde el Valle Central de California — y para las cumbiamberas Marië y Julie, que cuentan un poquito de la historia de Carlos en el radiodocumental Squeezebox Stories (When are you writing a guest post for us?)
I’ve met several accordionists from all over the world (and Carlos is one of them) who, when they find out I am from Colombia, won’t stop raving about the virtuoso accordionists in vallenato. And yes, no doubt I agree, and I love listening to them, but I keep coming back to the down-home vallenateros who leave the fancy tricks aside, who keep it simple and honest and deep. Not many do that better than Alejo Durán.
Anything I try to write about Alejo Durán is outdone by a beautiful chronicle written by Alberto Salcedo in the book “Diez juglares en su patio”, where Alejo talks about his love for accordion, women, and his sombrero vueltiao, his disinterest in alcohol and new vallenato, and his encounters with Gabriel García Márquez. (Muy recomendado este libro, si lo consiguen! El último libro de Salcedo también está buenísimo.) So maybe I’ll just let them talk, and hope my translation doesn’t get too much in the way:
Alejo: “When someone talks to me about fingering, it is as if they talk to a deaf man. I have nothing to do with fingering. I am an accordionist of style. […] I don’t crack my fingers trying to make the notes run fast, but I assure you that I have my style, and if you hear me from far away you will now that it is me who is playing. You’ll mix up the other accordion players. Not me.”
If you want style, check out his accordion work in this song, especially towards the end; I never heard anything quite like this.
Alejo, father of 24 children, “all with the same one but with many different women” says “…I had to be in love to keep composing. Or heartbroken. Because, really, there are two topics to compose about: love and sorrow. Everything else is make-believe, and I don’t like to make things up. […] If some guy can get excited singing about lies, things that haven’t happened, let him do that. We, the old guys, prefer to sing about what happens to us.”
Salcedo: “Durán’s main merit is that he understood that the accordion has its voice, and it’s important to let it speak. Not like most of today’s interpreters, for whom the accordion is simply an instrument; as if it wasn’t an extension of our feelings.”
Durán: “My life, my trusted friend, and part of my soul is the accordion. I tell my secrets to him.”
My fellow pelangueros know that every time I go to Bogota, I come back raving about some incredibly magical musical experience, the kind that you couldn’t have planned, the kind that you probably shouldn’t try to repeat, the kind that made us want to start La Pelanga in the first place. This obviously says more about the incredible depth and breadth of Colombian music today than about my luck. During my trip last month, which was beautiful in more ways than one, I really felt like I was witnessing a historical moment.
Ondatropica’s album drops tomorrow (7/16). It is an incredible blend of cumbia, salsa, currulao, funk, ska, and even a Black Sabbath cover, with guest appearances by Fruko, Anibal Velasquez, Ana Tijoux, and many others. You can hear the whole album right here. But buy it! Show some gratitude, no?
If you’re lucky enough to be in London (7/20, 7/22), New York (7/27), Los Angeles (7/29), Oristano (8/3), or Berlin (8/4), go see them! Details here.
Friends, it’s been a busy, busy summer but we haven’t forgotten about you!
I can’t think of a better way to come back than with this monster of a record. Much has been written recently about Andrés Landero – our friend Bardo from Chicano Batman even wrote his thesis about him; recommended reading! For many of California and Mexico’s cumbieros, Andrés Landero defines the sound they work hard to try to achieve: strong, rooted, heavy, proud. (But then he makes it seem so effortless too, makes everyone else sound like a little kid!) Oddly enough he is much lesser known in Colombia, and whenever you ask around for Landero records there, the nationalistic record sellers will complain that the Mexicans took them all. I’m not one to spend big dollars on records, so I’m always excited when I manage to find one of his for a decent price.
Here’s a song of strength for the campesino trying to make ends meet while the plague is taking over his field:
This one is a relic! Judging from the lyrics, it must be 1974 in this followup to Adolfo Pacheco’s La Hamaca Grande. Landero sets San Jacinto – Valledupar rivalries aside (which La Hamaca Grande didn’t) to endorse Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, who had co-founded the Festival Vallenato in the 60s and almost never missed it since. Lopez Michelsen was later elected to be president of Colombia, and probably did govern from the big San Jacinto hammock that Landero gave him. Did he defend the worker and help the campesino, though?
For those of you with a short attention span, the summary is this: If you (or a friend) is at the SXSW festival in Austin, go see Grupo Canalon de Timbiqui!
We already told you once before about Nidia Gongora and her Grupo Canalon de Timbiqui. This is the Colombian group I am most excited about today. One of the highlights of my trip to Colombia last month was the opportunity to spend a couple of nights with Nidia, el Grupo Canalón, and their Timbiquí family.
Happy times! Canalón got invited to play at SXSW (South By Southwest), one of the most important music festivals in the US. This is their first time abroad, and they were all in Bogotá applying for their visas. The community of timbiquireño expats hosted Nidia and her group at their home to celebrate the occasion.
The song is “Me voy ahogando” (I’m drowning) – one of many songs and stories about the Río Timbiquí. In these times of shrinking distances and frequent (and sometimes forced) migrations, so many of us are found longing for the times, places, and stories that define “who we are”. They are no different, and I assure you that the Río Bogotá just won’t do…
(Speaking of that: Amparo works in the neighborhood, el Barrio San Cristobal de Bogota, which is the home to a large Afro-Colombian community – many of whom have been displaced to the city due to the ongoing conflict in the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. She works with them to help keep their social and cultural traditions alive. She is raising funds to buy traditional musical instruments, clothing, history and literature books, etc. for the “Escuela de Formación Cultural Afro”. If you are interested in supporting her work, drop me an email or leave a comment below, and I’ll be very happy to put you in touch with her.)
I had the chance to visit Nidia’s home in Cali a few days later and meet her wonderful family. Before I finished each can of Poker, her husband Jorge had the next one open for me. I never heard “Un canto a mi tierra” – her love poem to Timbiquí in collaboration with Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro – sound better than that night, a-cappella between her and her 8? year old son Jorge Andrés. And wait for it, Fiorita has a voice!
Nidia is a wonderfully talented musician, an amazing story-teller, a gracious host, and a proud ambassador of the music of the Pacific Coast of Colombia. (She tells me she makes a mean sudado de piangua also – so bummed to have missed that.) I don’t exaggerate: her group is magical to listen to. If you happen to be in Austin for SXSW (or if you are thinking about making the trip), please don’t miss this rare opportunity to see them!