Music

Columbiafrica - The Mystic Orchestra: Voodoo Love Inna Champeta Land

Complex without being confusing, a brilliant Frankenmixture that sounds completely natural.


Columbiafrica - The Mystic Orchestra

Voodoo Love Inna Champeta Land

Label: Riverboat
US Release Date: 2007-09-11
UK Release Date: 2007-09-10
Amazon
iTunes

Voodoo Love Inna Champeta Land does all it can to bridge the gap between the thrill of a live performance and the detached calm of the cool synthetic disc that you listen to alone in your room. "You don't need a crowd," it laughs, cavorting with puppy enthusiasm. "We are the crowd." Every emotion is punched up, every trumpet is clear, every voice swells and shouts, everything good is highlighted, and everything bad is gone. The disc is fat with the physically demanding roundelay of Central and West African dance tunes (highlife, soukous, music that lets you know that it can outlast you; you'll tire before it does), the triumphant stab of Colombian trumpets, South American shout-outs that unexpectedly urge you to attend to African guitarists, and the occasional pat on the back from Henry Ortiz's excited accordion. It's complex without being confusing, a brilliant Frankenmixture that sounds completely natural.

Champeta is one of those genres that has managed to sneak under the English-speaking world's radar without a corresponding dearth of attention in its homeland, which is, in this case, Colombia. Colombia is known abroad chiefly for its cumbia, a combination of African, European, and native music that has developed into something different from any of its sources. It is distinctively, unmistakeably Colombian. Champeta is different. Its African roots are still strongly pronounced. It can sound so much like an African dance tune that it's not surprising the English-speaking music market has ignored it. If you want to listen to highlife, kwasa kwasa, juju, mbaquanga or rumba then there's already a tonne of the homegrown Mama Africa bands to get through so why would you need to look overseas to South America?

Whatever impact champeta has made in the English-speaking market owes its existence to the efforts of Palenque, a label that introduced itself to the world in 1998 with the release of a compilation called Champeta Criolla. Criolla was followed in 2003 by Champeta Criolla 2. In the same year Network released Radio Bakongo, a vehicle for a champeta musician called Paulino Salgado who turns up on Voodoo Love singing and playing drums. (And Lucas Silva, one of the brains behind Voodoo Love, had a hand in Radio Bakongo and the Champeta Criolla albums.) But its profile has stayed tiny. Thanks to the near-invisibility of the genre and most of its musicians, Voodoo Love Inna Champeta Land feels as if it has exploded out of nowhere. It's African but not African, Colombian but not Colombian, reggae but not reggae; it is streaked through with other kinds of music -- Cuban, chanting, funk -- without embodying any of them completely.

The Mystic Orchestra is an umbrella name for a collective project that brought a long list of guitarists and singers from Guinea and Congo together with Colombians who added more singing and other instruments: accordion, tuba, trombone, maracas, saxophone, tambora, tiple, güiro. There is a Nigerian singer, a Guyanese keyboard player, and a Cameroonian named Guy Bilong who drums. The photographs in the case hint at the breadth of experience on which the project has drawn. There are young men in stocking headgear, old men with white hair creeping out from under their caps, a man with rasta dreads; another man waving a record player and a small mixing desk; a middle-aged man on a guitar; a solitary woman with her hands on her hips and, on the front of the box, a conspicuously corny picture of a black man wearing faux tribal dress: golden robes, a fur wrap, and an enormous bulbous hat like a porridge-coloured brain growing out of the top of his skull. Stars and planets hang from the ceiling. He is resting one knee on an old chair and a forest of branches has been set up on the table behind him. It's a tongue in cheek depiction of a tribal king with his riches and fetishes. In its optimism and variety the picture suggests 1960s psyche playful spacey experimentation, the sort of thing that sometimes fizzled out under its own indulgent self-importance, and sometimes, loonily, worked. Voodoo Love is at least partly loony and it works.

In a review of an Afropop album earlier this year I wondered if we'd ever get to hear Afro-freakfolk. This, I think, is it. At times it has that wayward but purposeful tapestry quality that you hear in experimental Finns like Lau Nau or Islaja. Instruments jet to the surface as if you'd taken a handful of paint and squeezed so that worms of different colours squirted out between your fingers. Even during the final song they're still introducing new ideas. You can jump around to it too, which I admit, much as I love it, you can't really do with the Finnish music. Voodoo Love Inna Champeta Land is extravagant and ambitious. It's a find.

9

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image