Photo by B+
Four years ago, with the idea of exploring the richness, power, and diversity of the Colombian tropical sound, British sound excursionist William "Quantic" Holland and cumbia activist Mario Galeano aka Frente Cumbiero masterminded a plan. As a band, it resulted in an instant classic formed by old and new school names, an experiment recorded in Colombia's own Studio One, Discos Fuentes, in true analog fashion, a triple deluxe vinyl and gigs everywhere, from Glastonbury to New York's Lincoln Center.
All this and, of course, a rum-fueled version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," sang by the musical gurú of the band, Mr. Michi Sarmiento, sort of a costeño Little Richard:"I Ron Man." ("Me Rum Man").
Now, Ondatrópica is back with more sonic adventures.
"This time the accent was also in the recording location," Holland tells us via email about the recording of their second album, Baile Bucanero (Bucaneer Dance). "But this time we went straight to the heart of the Caribbean sound: Old Providence."
Recorded on its majority in the Caribbean island of Colombia, all sun, chill and crystal clear water, in this new chapter, Ondatrópica continues navigating its own map, raising a deep question about the musical blood of this big nation: its sabor. "We wanted to approach Caribbean music as a subject that transcends political and cultural frontiers," Galeano observes from his usual anthropological perspective. "Finding ties between calypso and Choco's tamborito, for example… replacing guacharacas with jawbones, joining the lapsteel with the accordion".
In a typical Ondatrópica extravaganza, an army of 35 musicians has recording credits in the album, respecting the original idea of blending names of yesterday and today on the mix. "Preservation is important, but in an evolving way", Holland notes. "That's why the intergenerational nature of the band is so important."
To the stable presence of Michi in the sax (and laughs), or the voice of two folk idols from the Pacific coast of Colombia, Nidia Góngora and Markitos Micolta, new waver—left side talent has been added, such as the percussionists Urián Sarmiento and Kike Egurrola, champeta idols as Justo Valdez and island superstars as Elkin Robinson. The result is a work that explores the main musical influence of this old British colony: styles such as calypso, mento and dancehall, in relation with other regional aesthetics such as vallenato, cumbia, salsa, and panameño reggae.
Their first single, "Hummingbird," illustrates this spirit in all fairness.
Directed by a longtime collaborator of the project, the irish Brian Cross, aka B+—known for capturing West Coast hip-hop in action, J Dilla, Damian Marley, and DJ Shadow—the video of the song shows the musicians possessed by the magic in the studio, free and happy, in full creative flight.
Like Galeano says: "Throwing the spoon in the sancocho (stew) that's Colombia."
Baile Bucanero, Ondatrópica's second album, will see the light on February 17, 2017, via Soundway.