MAY 15, 2012
Nat Geo Music Introduces Palenke Soultribe
Meet The Latest Addition To The Nat Geo Music Label
The Nat Geo Music label is proud to introduce our latest signing: Colombian electro cumbia soul rebels Palenke Soultribe. Their debut album Palenke vs. Palenque, will be released later this year.
About The Band:
Palenke Soultribe is Juan Diego Borda and Andres Erazo - a.k.a. "Popa" - a pair of Colombian expats living in L.A., seasoned players on their country's legendary underground rock scene now drawn together to explore and expand the limits of traditional Colombian sounds, updating them for the 21st century.
A self-described "tech geek," Popa programs beats, plays keyboard and "understands the machines," while his partner Juan plays bass and minds the melodies. Both members sing and share writing duties. But the duo also likes to work in a collective environment, inviting guest producers, singers, songwriters and instrumentalists to contribute to their recordings and live shows - including Mexican drummer Angel Cotta and Percussion player Clodomiro Montes who they describe as an "unofficial members" of the band.
Juan explains how their early live shows helped Palenke's sound evolve. "We started out more like DJs dropping beats and sampling. Slowly we started to enjoy playing live more. We started adding instruments and we feel the music start to breathe more - and our audiences seem to also have evolved from the traditional laptop DJ set. They want to see more. So we based our ensemble on drums, Colombian percussion, keyboards/samples/laptop bass guitar and vocals. We also like to invite guest musicians like accordion, gaita, etc".
Taken all together, their sound is a tweaked-out, dubby, dancefloor-friendly hybrid of electronic beats and Colombian styles - especially cumbia. "Cumbia is a Colombian sound, but people from all over Latin American can relate to it," says Juan. "It's easy to dance to, and everyone knows it. [But] we actually play other styles like cumbion, vallenato, pitan-pitan and bullerengues. There are many more patterns still to be explored."
"Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba... all of them make music that everybody knows all over the world. Now it's Colombia's turn," adds Popa. "Colombian music is still new to many ears... it's not better just fresher. Due to our social and political situation Colombians had been hiding from the world but now that things are better. It seems like all the pressure is being released through art and creativity not only in music but also in literature, graphic arts, movies, TV, etc... It's like our small Renaissance."
Though the duo originally met at University in the Colombian city of Manzinales, the group takes its name from the historic San Basilio de Palenque community, a village in northern Colombia founded by runaway slaves in the 17th century that still survives today. Popa explains how the duo took their inspiration from this extraordinary community: "The palenques are considered by many as the first free territory on the continent. These refugees were able to bring their culture, music and traditions to the small villages they formed in the jungle".
The Afro-Colombian musical traditions that arose in these palenques - cumbia, champeta, curralao, etc. - have inspired a whole generation of Colombian musicians to dig back into their country's diverse musical roots. "Carlos Vives also inspired a lot of Colombians to discover the roots under the rock," says Juan. "We grew up listening to this music in the bus, the taxi, dancing at family parties, etc. But also we were really curious about the music from abroad".
"We both had a bunch of bands, post-punk, electronic, that kind of thing, Juan continues. "We used to listen to a lot of Chemical Brothers. But when we came to the U.S. we started thinking more about our identity. We're not British, so why should we play Britpop? We're not Cuban, so why should we play Cuban music? We're Colombian, so our inspiration comes from that. We have to be original and honest with our past and our roots."
About Palenke vs. Palenque:
Palenke Soultribe's debut for Nat Geo Music, Palenke vs. Palenque is a Colombian soundclash of epic proportions, featuring brand new remixes of original tracks from Colombia's legendary Palenque Records label.
Juan explains: "Palenque Records is a Colombian label that has devoted the last 10 years to explore, discover, record and promote all the hidden gems of the afro-Colombian music. Its founder Lucas Silva, contacted us, offering all the original session files for us to work remixes on. We spent great deal of time listening to all the material and trying to figure out what to do. Then we took our favorite pieces spliced them edited them and re-created new songs out of them Some of the new songs keep just bits and samples and some others are preserved close to the original ("El Liso," "Las Penas Alegres," etc.)."
"It was an honor to able to work with music from the masters of Afro-Colombian music," adds Popa. We offer our infinite gratitude to o Batata, Petrona Martinez, Son Palenque, Sexteto Tabala, and Luis Towers for their inspiring music."
The opening track, "Makako" summarizes the album's concept, layering new sounds over an original track by the late, legendary Batata y Su Rumba Palenkera. Popa explains: "It features a traditional slow paced cumbia ensemble (alegre, clarinet, tambora) and underneath we lay deep, thick synths. The chorus is an all-new part that lifts up the listener. The lyrics are sang in Spanish and in Palenque, which is the dialect still spoken in some of the villages today.
Another example of this technique is the track "Oh Mama!". Originally written by Enrique Martinez, the group updated the lyrics for contemporary audiences, portraying a guy who asks his lover: "Why are you acting strange? Are you mad at me?" But can never get a reply.
On "Afrika is the Mother " samples "Apila el Arroz", a funky groover from the group Son Palenque. Palenke Soultibe invites Ghanaian rapper Scrip to spit some rhymes celebrating the African origins of the music the band loves. While "Move It" is an experiment with faster acid house tempos, featuring L.A.-based singer Naada.
In addition to these two artists, Palenke invited a few other guests into the studio to work on this album, including singer Itagui from Miami rockers Locos Por Juana ("Echale Candela"), a few like-minded producers (Sr. Mendez, Kaddyn Palmed, Sismo), and Clodomiro Montes and Javier Delgado on percussion and beats.
Says Juan: "We didn't want to sound exactly the same in all songs. We were trying to challenge ourselves all the time, asking ourselves: "How can we make this song different form the last one?" So we ended up having very different styles like Funky House, Tech-House, Minimal... Break Beat and Techno and Acid but, in the end, they all seem to come under the same umbrella. That umbrella is the Afro-Colombian sound. That's what pulls all the other sounds together".
The result is one of the most original and wild roller coaster rides through Colombian musical traditions that will leave listeners on the dancefloor, clamoring for more.