By Jeff Guerra
Photos and Illustration: Latino Resiste
Dating back to its original launch in 2005, digital music label Latino Resiste has released an impressive stream of productions designed to highlight and distribute the evolutionary sounds that inform the ongoing discussion of what we call Latino culture.
Founded by DJs/Producers/Blog Entrepreneurs Caballo and Gux Swadharma, Latino Resiste is perhaps best known for its series of genre-defying compilation albums that explore the ethnographic commonalities in a region that often otherwise suffers from divisive elements such as political posturing and cultural influence from Europe and the United States. Curated by a diverse group of DJs and producers, these compilations place original, indigenous musical forms side-by-side with modern, remixed or reinterpreted versions to incite thoughtful discourse on the very meaning of cultural identity. It raises an interesting thought: celebrating Latino culture today might mean taking pride in a Colombian song whose basic rhythm came from Africa, and was then remixed by someone in Canada before gaining popularity through nightclubs across Europe.
Critics of such phenomena often point to their potential dilutive effect – as if these new “remixed” forms will ultimately erase the original material from history. Young African Americans in the Bronx surely heard the same sorts of things in the early 1980s when they began sampling their parents’ soul and funk records to create what we today refer to as hip hop. But listen closely to that new Jay-Z record… is that a Marvin Gaye sample? Seriously, can you think of a better way to expose a 15-year-old boy to Marvin Gaye?
Into the discussion comes Root A Pacifica, the newest digital release from Latino Resiste. This massive undertaking is a 26-track opus tapping the rich musical vein found in Colombia’s Pacific coast region, which is home to a population that is overwhelmingly Afro-descendent and remains in many ways as isolated as the densest Amazon forests.
Afro-Colombian music and culture in general remain mostly unknown to the world at large, and what little is known can typically be found on the nation’s tourist-friendly Atlantic coast. But the Pacific is wholly different; this is not the land of carnival and smiling palenqueras with fruit baskets on their heads. Harsh geography and economic reality mean that many here grow up without ever meeting Colombians from the rest of the country, let alone Europeans or foreign travelers. The Pacific is often referred to as the “Africa inside of Colombia”, and Pacific music shows much more in common with that continent than other native Colombian rhythms such as cumbia and vallenato.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of music pioneers both in- and outside of Colombia have tuned their antennas to this mysterious region, and the activity is sure to increase with support from the emerging global/tropical bass community. This is a multinational, blog-driven sector where DJs, producers, and savvy music lovers are peering into non-traditional territories like Angola, Peru, and the Middle East to satisfy their insatiable need for new inspiration. With all its African authenticity and mystic old world instrumentation, the Colombian Pacific is surely coming to a club near you.
Apart from its quality of selection, part of the inherent beauty of Root A Pacifica lies in its broad rendering of this unique musical tale. We have original recordings from Afrotumbao and Herencia de Timbiqui, playing alongside New York-based producer Uproot Andy’s remix of traditional currulao music from Grupo Naidy. Bringing it full circle, there are songs from the next generation of Afro-Colombian artists, bands like Explosion Negra who are examining the possibilities of combining their own musical heritage with new sounds and creative collaborators from the outside world.
Pulling so much material together from such a wide variety of artists is a mammoth undertaking on its own; the overall production quality and care with which this compilation was carried from the Colombian Pacific make it a stunning accomplishment. Something like this does not get done with a few emails and a shared Dropbox folder.
Like the label’s five previous compilations, Root A Pacifica is available as a free download from the Latino Resiste website and includes original artwork from Afromestiza. This is a rare and unique glimpse into a fascinating musical landscape; get it now, and enjoy.
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Here’s a list of some of the tracks featured on Latino Resiste’s new compilation Root A Pacifica:
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