09/08/2023Rocafort Records Releases V.A. Compilation Of 'East African Hits On The Colombian Coast'

Rain in Berlin is so heavy these days, it feels like we've gone coastal. And so coastal is our choice for soundtrack of the week, as we direct our attention to Barcelona's Rocafort Records and their recently released various artists compilation, inviting listeners on an Afro-Caribbean tour of the Colombian coast. "Piconema: East African Hits on the Colombian Coast" brings us nine gems of East African heritage, "showcasing the best of Kenyan Benga music – a unique style with a distinct guitar-picking method that draws from traditional instruments like the nyatiti and orutu."

This exceptional collection of tracks takes us back to "San Basilio de Palenque – the first free town in colonial Latin America, established in 1691 as a place of refuge and autonomy for Black slaves." It is there that to this day, the African heritage and culture has been kept alive by a vibrant local scene, its musical traditions regularly reverberating from the so-called 'picós', i.e. "artisanal, high-powered sound systems akin to those found in Jamaica." It is within these tracks that history is transmitted and stories told, hidden within the grooves, waiting to resurface on the dancefloor.

Almost all of the tracks on this record play out for eight to nine minutes and radiate pure joy, resulting in a life-affirming mix of "sub Saharran polyrhythms" and Caribbean pizzazz that is absolutely infectious. Artists include Maroon Commandos, Issa Juma & Waanyika, Orchestre Shika-Shika, Viva Makale, Les Mangelepa, Nairobi Matata Jazz, Les Volcano, Lawi Somona and Les Kilimambogo. The project was realised by Spanish vinyl collector Joan Pujol aka Golfo De Guinea and a team of fellow afficionados such as Don Alirio, a musicologist from Barranquilla, and Kenyan DJ, collector and Benga advocate George Ouma, who helped curate the selection and secure the rights. Stream the full compilation below and let these rare tunes lift your rainy spirits.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom