Music News

Colombiafrica The Mystic Orchestra

The Caribbean lowlands region of Colombia — where the rough northern Andes descend into the sea — is informed by centuries of conquest and cultural assimilation. The result is a vibrant melting pot as tangled and organic as the humid swamps that weave throughout the coastline. Descendants of slaves and Spaniards have intermingled with the country's indigenous people like elsewhere on the continent, but the slave ships that docked in the ports along Colombia's 1,100 miles of Caribbean coastline ensured that the African influence would continue to be a strong presence, even today. The sounds of Colombiafrica are rooted in a desire by an Afro-Caribbean musician — Lucas Silva — to make explicit those cross-continental cultural connections. And in a sort of reverse Buena Vista Social Club, Silva invited a coterie of Africa's most notable guitarists — players like Sekou Diabate (the founder of Bembeya Jazz) and Dally Kimoko — to participate in a series of recording sessions in Colombia. The results initially appear to favor more straightforward Latin arrangements, as the rhythms the group employs are heavily informed by cumbia. But the melodic styles and mellifluous guitar-work of Silva's guests are indisputably African in nature, and what begins as "Afro-Caribbean" eventually reveals itself as a Latin-influenced blend of the highlife and soukous sounds typically associated with Ghana and the Congo. It's something of a spectacular hat trick, as fans of one particular style or another will undoubtedly latch onto that particular aspect of Voodoo Love upon early listens but soon become enamored with the range of sounds employed by this loose and upbeat ensemble.

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Jason Ferguson