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,

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.


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!