Various ‘The Afrosound of Columbia Vol.1’ 3LP/2CD (Vampi Soul) 4/5

Columbian music has rightly gained a higher profile in recent times with excellent compilations from Soundway to supplement the Cumbia greats past and present on previous World Circuit albums some twenty years ago. However, the funkier side to these Afro-Columbian flavours have seldom been seen or heard outside Columbia or its neighbours and therefore Vampi Soul are to be congratulated for enlisting the expert ears of DJ Pablo Iglesias to unravel some of the lesser known sounds and introduce some new names to a wider public. Afro-Columbian culture is not a single, easily identifiable sound, but is rather based round a somewhat looser concept of Afro-Columbian identity which tends to be situated geographically along the coastline of the country. All tracks derive from the illustrious independent label Discos Fuentes which was founded as far back as 1934 and the music contained within this selection dates between the late 1960s and 1980. Columbian salsa is distinctive with its crisp sounding percussion, but on ‘Salsa con tabaco’ by Afrosound a funkier ellement is added with wah-wah guitar and this gives the number a different feel. The same band excel on ‘Jungle fever’ with sensuous female warblings from vocalist Keri Kenton akin to those of Jane Birkin accompanying Serge Gainsbourg while there is opera-style singing on the funky ditty that is ‘El caterete’ by Wganda Kenya, another group fully deserving of wider recognition. Excellent cumbia is provided by Rodolfo y su Tipica RA7 on the classic tune ‘Tabaco y ron’ from 1970 and there is a fiery descarga from Fruko y sus tesos on ‘Descraga espectacular’ with percussion from Cuban conguero Tata Güines. Latin-soul with vibes and percussion thrown in for good measure are prominent on ‘Salsa boogaloo’ by Sexteto Miramar from 1968, doubtless taking a leaf out of the musical innovations at the time in Nueva York. With no less than forty-three choice cuts and lavish cover and artist photo illustrations in the deluxe inner sleeve, this is a treasure trove of information on a country whose myriad musical genres have been largely overlooked until the last decade to an international public. Perhaps some of the harder to find albums could be coupled together and re-issued for future release. In the meantime this worthwhile selection from Pablo Iglesias fulfills the very useful purpose of filling in some of the gaps.

Tim Stenhouse