Emahoy Tsegué Mariam Gebru

My friend Feven pointed me to this incredibly beautiful short film on the Ethiopian classical pianist Emahoy Tsegué Mariam Gebru. Thank you, Feven! You can click on the CC for English subtitles, but, really, the film speaks for itself.


It’s been a bit of a crazy summer over here, and I guess you shouldn’t be surprised when a 90 year old nun knows exactly what you need. I’ve been playing her music all day long. After watching this, I’m pretty sure many of you will, too.




Joachim Boya et l’orchestre Black Santiago, Yedenou Adjahoui

The life of a mathematician may not be the most glamorous one, but I do get to travel all over, and I always budget an extra day to hide from my hosts in some little basement full of records. I just returned home after several months of travelling, conferences, even a new theorem or two, time with old and new friends, and a great stack of records that I’m slowly catching up to. There’s so much music I want to share with you all that I don’t even know where to start!

So to start somewhere, I’m going to follow Smokestack’s lead. I loved his Polyrhythmo post, and one of my favorite parts of any Pelanga is when he goes and busts out some incredible Beninese salsa track from the deep end of his crate. Following his lead, I also managed to get a hold of a few great records from Benin over the last month. I might save my favorites for our upcoming Pelanga in a couple of weeks, but of course Joachim Boya + l’orchestre Black Santiago has to be pretty close to favorite:


“Alphabetisation” has a spot reserved in our Educator’s Special mix (years in the making). It’s got that groove, that keyboard, and that killer break towards the end that leaves you with a melody which you’re not about to find on this side of the Atlantic.



Then in “Rendez-vous a l’etoile” they redefine call-and-response. So nice.



La ñapa:


For those of you who like the traditional sound, here is Yedenou Adjahoui. Eighteen minutes of this is definitely not enough.

Hode Nad mite



Mongo Santamaría . Sofrito, O Mi Shangó

I really like where you’re headed with this, Pozole. While I cue up the next song, I have to say I can’t agree more with you, man. I have to walk behind the booth every other song to see what y’all are playing! And even in a record that I own, you guys bring to light these amazing songs that I haven’t even noticed. I hadn’t really paid too much attention to Ray Barreto’s ‘Power’, and on an album called ‘Power’! Thank you for rectifying.

That track got me all excited to post an old favorite, but I just realized that I let Smokestack borrow it. Well, it’s in very capable hands, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with it. So let’s try something else, inspired by your last two posts (and by the opportunity to blast “Sofrito” on La Peña’s sound system last Saturday. Someone asked me what ‘Sofrito’, and the best (only?) answer was to have her look at the record cover.)


No doubt many of you know Mongo Santamaria’s “Sofrito”, a Pelanga favorite and a classy, classy tune. A just-so-slightly melodramatic piano intro turns into one of the most memorable tumbaos in salsa, adorned by such an elegant horn section and beautiful solos waay up top. Monguito’s subtle work on the congas keeps everyone grounded and lets them shine. Restraint can be so powerful!

This is not the song I meant to post, but I can’t help it.

Sofrito by Mongo Santamaría


What you might not know is how Monguito follows this up. In the next track he brings us back down low, with a praise to Shangó that is equal parts heavy funk and pure rumba cubana. What else can I say?

O Mi Shango by Mongo Santamaría



Franz Tunda, I know you’re busy, but I also know some of what’s hiding in your crates. Wanna take it from here?



Nidia Góngora y el Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí

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!


Much love and respect,

Andrés Landero – La muerte de Eduardo Lora

This is how a vallenato is played.



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