Various ‘Diablos del ritmo. The Columbian Melting Pot 1960-1985’ 2CD/2LP/Digital (Analog Africa) 5/5

Specialist independent world roots label Analog Africa has hitherto focused primarily on African music, but on this splendidly compiled and illustrated double CD set, the myriad music styles of Columbia are showcased and what a treat the listener has in store. Thematically the CDs are divided up roughly into two separate types, although there is a good deal of interweaving of styles as might be expected in a country so blessed with external influences. In the first Afro-Columbian and funk influences predominate, though Latin rhythms are always just beneath the surface while on the second CD rootsier Columbian sub-genres that includes a healthy dosage of Cuban and salsa-inspired grooves are on offer. With over thirty cuts to choose from, virtually all from relatively unknown musicians outside Columbia and neighbouring countries, this is a musical voyage of discovery. Of the more familiar names, Afro-funk artist Wganda Kenya and Columbian musical institution Sonora Dinamita will be recognisable to most from previous anthologies, though not these particular songs. Kenya’s ‘El caterete’ is a fine slice of Columbian enthused Afrobeat and fans of the Nigerian original will feel at home here while Latin fusion is the order of the day from Wasamaye Rock Group and their self-titled ‘Wasamaye’. Afro-funk with a heavyweight percussive workout thrown into the mix is served up by Grupo Abharca on ‘Schallcam’ with lovely brass and guitar riffs. For fans of more traditional Latin sounds, look no further that the Cuban son piano vamps and stabbing horns of ‘Enyere kumbara by Julian y su Combo. CD2 takes the trip down memory lane further with old school descarga and mariachi-style trumpet playing on ‘Lluvia’ by the Fuentes All Stars. Cuban guajiro or country music is paid tribute to on ‘Bajo el trupillo guajiro’ by Sexteto Manaure. Of course no Columbian compilation of roots music would be complete without the nation’s major contribution to the world with cumbia and there are several off-shoots including cumbiamba. A fast paced cumbia with clarinet arrives from Reyo Torres y sus Diablos del Ritmo and ‘La veterana’ from which the compilation title is taken. There is even an earlier 1950s style flavour to the Sidney Bechet inspired piece ‘Cumbia sincelejana’ by J. Alvear. Coming back right up to date, contemporary salsa sounds are exemplified by the excellent ‘Sabroson’ from Roberto Barrera y su piano and further by the steaming salsa picante of ‘La cascada’ by Pianonegro’. All in all the sheer variety and eclecticism of sounds on this anothology make it a veritable treasure trove of Afro-Columbian grooves. One of the year’s best Latin compilations that will appeal to fans of rare Africana also.
Tim Stenhouse