The inaugural Pura Vida Latin Music Festival is bringing the best of the fire and passion of South America to inject some warm loving into the Antipodean hearts. Boasting a lineup featuring the best of South America’s contemporary urban soundscape – from Argentinian tip-hoppers Terraplen to Brazilian songstress Alda Rezende via the indefinable Uruguayan musician Martin Buscaglia – Pura Vida Latin Music Festival is a sheer unadulterated demonstration of the strength, diversity and sophistication found within the South American music scene. “We wanted to stay away from stereotypes and present a wide array of artists and genres, as eclectic and diverse as possible,” Madrid says of the programme.
Though most the names appearing on the lineup are far from household names on these shores, on their home turfs they have more than made their mark. With many an award winner amongst the mix, there is one Colombian trio who look set to reach a state of global domination when they release their fifth album, Eso Es Le Que Hay. While the internationally celebrated Shakira and Juanes may have already helped to put Colombia further onto the global music map, their country mates Choc Quib Town (“Choc is for Choco, our home state; Quib is for Quibdo, our home city and the capital of Choco. “Town” is like pueblo; the neighbourhood, the barrio”) seem to be following hot on their heels with their own fusion of Latin American rhythm and hip hop beats. The quartet founded in Quibdo (capital city of Choco Department, western Colombia), whose debut album Somos Pacifico was released back in 2006, have spent the past few years not only building up an enormous fan base on their home turf, but also winning over hearts around the world – despite the fact, like Juanes (who back in 2007 stated, “singing in Spanish is very important because it’s the language in which I think and feel. I respect people that sing in English, but for now I’ll keep my Spanish”), they record purely in their mother tongue.
While Shakira may have only hit the global mainstream as a result of her debut English language album, the trio, who speak scant a word of English between them, have seen their international reputation go from strength to strength – culminating rather impressively with a Grammy nomination in the Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album category at the 2011 Award Ceremony for their 2009 release, Oro (which also spawned the 2010 Latin Grammy Best Alternative Song Award Winning De Donde Vengo Yo). Lauded by the critics and with a flurry of awards to their name, the trio’s musical stylings were perfectly described by the Washington Post when they stated, “Imagine if The Black Eyed Peas had their roots in Afro Colombian Music.” Within the same breath they cited the trio as “One of the most exciting new urban acts in Latin America”, making the prospect of seeing this rapidly rising troupe a tantalising treat.
Far from simply riding on the wave of success, the group see their increasing fame as a pedestal from which they can instigate change and raise awareness. When asked recently about their platform, they stated, “We are narrating a Colombia that does not appear in the mass media” in reference to the rights of the Afro-Colombian. When interviewed for Cuentame in the build up to the Grammy Awards Ceremony, Tostao who brings “the flow and flavour” of Choc Quib Town” stated, “We came together in 2000 with an idea to bring together the stories of the Afro community in Colombia within the country’s context.” His explanation was swiftly developed by lead singer Goyo (who in 2010 was crowned ‘Voice of the Year’ at the Premios Shock Awards), who added “Part of what Choc Quib Town wants to do is to be able to include to Afro communities in all of Latin America and to share it all with other people who may also have a strong background and culture with African roots like we do. I think that would be very interesting.”
With their connection to the varying sounds that so firmly define their musical output so clearly aligned with their overriding ambition and message, it is easy to understand how Choc Quib Town have found their way from being stars purely on a local level. Within the same interview, Goyo continues to breakdown the unique elements of their sound and in turn, their appeal, with these words, “We have some rhythms that are unknown to a lot of people, but are reflected in a lot of our music such as in a song called Oro. To be able to blend genres or the different types of music that we grew up with and make something new out of them, that is what Choc Quib Town is about.”
BY DAVID HUNTER