All along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, champeta music booms out of tricked-out, streetside mobile speaker systems called picós. The genre is a product of the region, one long-marked with racial tension and sharp socio-economic inequality. In recent years, after historically being stigmatized by the Colombian ruling class, the style has surged in popularity, moving beyond its Afro-Colombian roots and into the mainstream. Champeta records have topped Colombian charts, scored hit telenovelas, and even starred in tourism campaigns by the Colombian Foreign Ministry.

… Last Friday Mr. Black, the self-proclaimed “El Presidente del Genero,” made his American debut in New York City, packing full a nightclub in a predominantly Latin American part of Queens. Before the show we sat down with the artist to talk about champeta’s history, its increasing popularity across class lines, and how the genre’s acceptance nods to a peaceful future for a country fighting to move out of a five decade-long civil war.

I interviewed and shot Colombian champeta superstar Mr. Black for GOOD Magazine. 

Quantic - Duvidó feat. Pongo Love

Real Estate - Navigator 

William Onyeabor - Good Name

Top Baker’s Dozen Albums of 2013…


these are the albums i liked the most in 2013… the year i completed dos mas insane semesters of grad school alongside full time ir work, 5 pointz got tragically erased, i managed to not break anything while still playing soccer in the best ‘amateur’ league in the country at a rather advanced age, lebanon and the wider middle east fell deeper into the abyss, i got published in my first academic and literary journals, sir alex bowed out in glory (glory), and i got engaged to a brilliant/hilarious/beautiful brazilian tropical fruit zealot in colombia. 

(in no particular order)

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Bombino - Nomad

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Black Milk - No Poison No Paradise
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Cuushie - Butterfly Case
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Telekinesis - Domarion
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La Yegros - Viene di Mi
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Kurt Vile - Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze
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Mashrou’ Leila - Raasuk
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Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
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Dur Dur Band - Volume 5
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Atoms for Peace - Amok
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John Wizards - John Wizards
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Pusha T - My Name is My Name

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William Tyler - Impossible Truth
Honourable Mention…
Party Supplies - Tough Love
Danny Brown - Old
Devendra Banhart - Mala
Marsellus Wallace - 31 Days Mix

John Wizards - Muizenberg

Colombia is seeking UNESCO’s recognition of the folkloric music genre of vallenato as cultural heritage, President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday.

The president did so in Valledupar, the capital of the northern Cesar state considered the country’s capital of the music genre.

“Vallenato recently was included as immaterial cultural heritage by the nation … and we are seeking that UNESCO also recognizes it as cultural heritage of humanity,” Santos said.

… Vallenato — much like cumbia and porro — is one of a number folkloric music genres originating from the Caribbean coast. The music, characterized by the use of the accordion, is particularly popular along the northern coastline.

Music styles that, like hip-hop, are connected to some kind of grass roots, are fluid, with constant incremental changes building into epochal ones. When they move from their base audience, it’s often because a particular conjuncture of sounds resonates with a new crowd. But here is where a kind of misrecognition occurs: for the neophytes, the style is this one way, frozen in time. The give and take between music makers and their core followings, the push and pull, ebb and flow that built disco, hip-hop, house, reggaeton, and so on, is interrupted by listeners who in their enthusiasm don’t always understand the history or sociology of their genres. They don’t have to: when music becomes a commodity, it can travel worldwide, as all commodities do, severed from any knowledge of the conditions of its production. Genres cease to be grassroots social worlds, and instead become something more like brands: mere sonic surfaces rather than deep historical processes.

When a genre develops a signature sound, it’s ripe for the plucking by interlopers. Instead of having any real connection to the communities that develop musical styles through the dialectical movement between music makers and their core audiences, an outside producer just has to have a decent set of ears and a computer, and can start cranking out reasonable facsimiles, like factories in China churning out fake Coach purses indistinguishable to everyone but connoisseurs. Even if you can tell the difference, the functional parts are close enough. Today’s Chinese pirate manufacturers pride themselves on their quality goods, just as today’s kings of musical appropriation do.

Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu (Album Trailer)

Related: Syria, On the Cusp of Hipness, Then Fading

femi kuti - the world is changing 

helado negro - dance ghost

Dur Dur Band - Is Yeelyel

Dur Dur Band was one of Somalia’s last great party bands… 

Bibio - À tout à l’heure

ghostface killah and adrian younge - the rise of the ghostface killah

from the upcoming ghostface album that has been described as a mix of “classic 36 chambers-era rza with portishead, and the Italian film music of ennio morricone.”