Timbiquí, Pacífico

Last week, Caracol Radio reported that FARC guerrillas opened fire in the middle of Timbiquí and left explosive devices around the town on their way out, forcing more than 150 families to evacuate. We join the community of Timbiquí in rejecting this, the latest in a series of violent episodes in a conflict that the Timbiquireños have no interest in being a part of.

This post is our humble tribute to a region of proud, strong, peaceful people that has a very special place in our hearts.

Ethnomusicologist David Lewiston went to the town of Guapi in 1968:

 

“The heavy rain in the region forms myriad rivers, which flow down to the Pacific […] there were so many rivers that there were few bridges or roads between coastal communities. The only forms of transport were boat and light plane. […] This community of a few thousand people was entirely black except for three mestizos – two of the doctors […] and the priest.

 

Because of the town’s isolation, its music had been conserved with remarkable purity.”

 

Lewiston did some of the earliest recordings of currulao. He didn’t keep track of who the musicians were in each song, but attributes this one to “the Torres family”. We think it might be the family of Gualajo, an influential fourth-generation musician who claims that when he was born, his umbilical chord was cut on top of a marimba.

Lewiston

Currulao Cantado by Familia Torres

Currulao Cantado

This tradition is alive and well. Two years ago, Tunda and we had the sweet joy of attending the Festival Petronio Alvarez, the annual gathering for musicians and friends from the towns up and down the Colombian Afro-Pacifico. Thousands of people make the journey by whatever means necessary, even if it involves hauling drums and marimbas on a canoe. We’ve never seen a crowd that is that lively, and yet is so positive and peaceful. It was among these throngs that we decided to start La Pelanga.

The last night of the festival, we got stuck way in the back, but were thrilled to find ourselves smack in the middle of what seemed like the whole town of Timbiquí – jam-packed in, two people per seat, gas canisters of home-brewed viche and arrechón being generously passed around.

Nidia Góngora and the Grupo Canalón from Timbiquí won the prize for Best New Marimba Song with Una Sola Raza:

Una Sola Raza by Grupo Canalon

Una Sola Raza

We haven’t told too many people about the Petronio, because it felt like a huge family reunion that one feels honoured and blessed to be a guest of. For better or for worse, the word is getting out. We are very happy to see this incredible music slowly get the recognition it deserves – we just hope that as the festival’s popularity increases, its role as a community event stays strong.

Naturally, the region is no longer as remote as it used to be. While the Colombian government continues to show little interest in it, the public is starting to discover the region’s immense cultural treasures. Some great new music is coming out of the Pacífico and receiving acclaim – from the work of Grupo Bahía Trio, to ChocQuibTown‘s “hip hop that smiles”, to Quantic’s collaboration with Nidia Góngora. No doubt, this is just the beginning…

With all our respect and solidarity with Timbiquí and the Colombian Pacífic Coast,

DJ China Tu Madre and Papicultor

PS – Shoutouts to Luis and Ale of Lulacruza (you can support their latest project here), a Franz Tunda, Dimamusa, Pablo, and Meche – let’s do it again! Also to Mariacecita, who loves and shares la música del pacífico, and to our friend Karent, puro talento timbiquireño; if you haven’t watched her movie, El Vuelco del Cangrejo, you’re in for a treat!