Anibal Velasquez y su Conjunto ‘Mambo Loco’ (Analog Africa) 3/5

Columbia and its African cultural influences has been the subject of some fascinating books in recent years and slowly but surely there have emerged examples of the rootsier side of the music in the country. This compilation focuses attention on accordionist Anibal Velasquez and the somewhat rustic, yet nonethless endearing sounds that he conjured up with his conjunto, but it does come with a large caveat. Having reputedly released some three hundred albums (some of these would possibly have been our equivalent of a shorter EP), it is disappointing that the music within is so short in time with even a full copy only containing twelve titles. There was indeed a deliberate attempt by the compiler to cut out several styles for fear this would alienate the non-specialist listener, but surely the listener could have made their own mind up with a larger selection of songs on offer. This being said, if authentic accordion-led cumbia and vallenato styles (among others) are your bag, then you are in for a treat. A fast and furious percussive workout is a highlight on the guaracha ‘Que paso’ whereas ‘Mi cumbia’ is a rootsy vallenato tune which is largely instrumental bar a few chants. Other Cuban influences are discernable elsewhere as on for example ‘Los vecinos’ which is a prime example of the Cuban guajira, or country style and almost a carbon copy of Guillermo Portables who was surely in Velasquez’s mind at the time. More obvious cumbia grooves are found on ‘Cumbia Bogotana’ and repetition of riff and accordion are equally a feature of ‘Vestido nuevo (’New outfits’). While not available with the promo copy, the full CD does contain an extensive booklet. A welcome addition to our knowledge of Columbian music, then, but let’s be given a more generous sampling of the artists in future offerings.

Tim Stenhouse