The Buena Vista Social Club documentary was released in 1997 along with the corresponding album featuring, among other re-emerging icons, the great Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo. A beat-laden fire was lit under the collective rump of the world. The high art of Cuba—its irresistible music—was reborn for the masses everywhere, igniting a fiery streak of “Cuba-Mania” that seductively grabbed us all by the hips and shook us into a frenzy of sweaty appreciation. Percussive descargas could be heard everywhere, from high-end hair salons, to bars, nightclubs, coffee shops and beyond. The sound was out and the verdict was unanimously in: yes please.
2012 promises a similar sonic revitalization in the Latin music world—only this time it is the sultry sound of Colombia that gets to shine, thanks to the work and mission of Mario Galeano, the talent behind the band Frente Cumbiero; and British producer Will Holland (aka Quantic). The duo have joined forces to create the Ondatrópica project, with an aim to meld and celebrate well-known tropical Colombian styles such as cumbia, porro, gaita and champeta, and make them clash head-on with boogaloo, ska, beat-box, hip hop, dub and funk.
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Ondatrópica was created to explore and build on the purest, rawest sounds of Colombia. For three weeks in January 2012, at the famous Discos Fuentes studios in Medellín, a group of renowned Colombian musicians joined a group of younger musicians that included members of both Galeano’s band, Frente Cumbiero, and Quantic’s, Combo Barbaro. The vision, in their words, was to: “reinterpret the tropical musical heritage of Colombia with new approaches in composition, arrangement and production in a classic and mythical setting.”
The all-star cast of 42 Colombian legends included saxophonist Michi Sarmiento, multi-instrumentalist Fruko, and accordion-playing don and singer Anibal Velasquez; as well as a new wave of Colombian and South American musicians, such as Chilean MC, Ana Tijoux and El Chongo, a young percussionist and beat-boxer from the city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.
The result is a diverse two-disc collection that delves deep into the heritage of Colombian tropical music and leaves us all with proper party music of the highest order. Galeano and Quantic also adopted a purist, analogue recording approach to create a vintage sound that they feel has been lost in the studio for some years now.
Record label Soundway describes the album, “The track listing is a mixture of well-known and classic, ranging from timeless pieces with one foot in the 1960s and 70s to progressive and forward-looking recordings firmly rooted in the 21st century.”
Such is the appeal and sophistication of the project that Ondatrópica, the band, represented Colombia in the 2012 London Olympics. With its formidable talent and infectious rhythms, it’s only a matter of time before Ondatrópica becomes The Buena Vista Social Club of this decade!