"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Roots of Colombian music


In the 1500s, the Atlantic region was an entrance port of the slave trafficking
heading towards South America. Some of these slaves escaped, building isolated
communities in scrublands called Palenques. Between 1529 and 1799, twenty-six
palenques were formed. San Basilio Palenque was the most famous, formed by the king
of an African tribe. Cumbia owes to this Palenque, its dance structure, inherited from its
ceremonial dances. (Cardenas, 1992).

Cumbia resemblances the Taino-Caribe’s Areito, a circle of dance practiced in the
Caribbean. Their influence is rooted through kinship relations between Caribbean and
Colombian tribes. An early expression of cumbia; was played in the early 1800s as
Gaitero instrumental music, an ensemble consisting of gaitas, playing with the steady
beat of drums, and the embellished with maracas. (Morales, 2003)

During the 1700’s, the nationalist Colombians re-arranged European dance genres
like the English country-dance, creating the first songs and dances with a tri-cultural
feeling. Colombian people envisioned a territorial unity and the possibility to sustain
capitalist relations with the rest of the world. Education became a priority, to find a
cultural identity. During the struggle for Colombian’s independence, cumbia a dance for
African and indigenous laborers, became the dance of national resistance.

Toto la Momposina, believes that cumbia originates as a courting dance between
energetic African men and reserved indigenous women, oppressed communities who
were prohibited to intermarry; this makes the cumbia a subversive act of mixture. Music
involved socializing; it mediated contexts of social relations, which were highly charged
with tension. (Wade, 2000)

In the 20th century, many young Colombians were educated in Europe, and
brought back patriotic and revolutionary ideas, represented as new musical ideas that
evolved from the basic rhythm of European dances. (Cardenas, 1992). The Andean
region, was home to the social elites and valued only their creolized-European traditions;
this shaped Colombian early national identity. Inhabitants of the Atlantic coast, were
marginalized and perceived as immoral, because of their African and native cultural
background. With the Big Band craze, the Cumbia was stylized
with similar instrument configuration of the swing bands, and gain national popularity.
Cumbia was described then as:

A rolling, infectious 2/4 beat that seems like a fusion between merengue
and reggae, with a similar backbeat that sends it surging forward. The
cumbia dance is based on hip rocking…

In the 1950’s, Cumbia was modernized with recording techniques becoming
faster and stylized. Lucho Bermudez, the orchestra leader of La Sonora Dinamita,
combined cumbia with other forms of Afro Cuban music. Today, cumbia has a
significant influence in Latin American tropical pop music. (Morales, 2003).

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