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Jende Ri Palenge (People of Palenque): Afro-Columbia [Soul Jazz Records]

by KEVIN on Mrz 3, 2012 • 9:00 am

The Jende Ri Palenge (People of Palenque) compilation on Soul Jazz provides an exhaustive collection of homegrown Afro-Columbian roots sounds and a comprehensive insight into a vibrant musical and cultural legacy fusing Latin and African influences. This ambitious new release is the result of an extensive project by Colombian filmmakers Santiago Posada and Simon Meija on location in San Basilio de Palenque; the first free slave (or “Maroon”) community in the Americas dating back the 16th century and the epicentre of Afro-Colombian culture.

Jende Ri Palenge is available as a 3-disc set, complete with remix CD featuring ambitious dubstep and electro reworkings of the original tracks by the likes of Osunlade, Matias Aguayo and Kromestar plus accompanying documentary DVD that narrates the history and evolution of the village with its heritage told by the villagers and performers themselves. Serious collectors can get hold of the release as a mammoth, limited-edition 5 LP plus DVD box set.

Posada and Meija set up the Palenque studio in 2008, recording over 200 hours of performances over a three month period whilst simultaneously shooting the documentary. The project highlights and explores a distinct, percussive roots sound, tracing its origins and rhythm back to Angola in West Africa, counterbalanced with Latin flavours and delivered with the urgency and vitality of a thriving local musical tradition. Jende Ri Palenge goes deep into the infectious, hypnotic West African rhythms laced with vocal chants and catchy refrains sung in the local creole (a fusion of Spanish plus West African vocabulary drawing on a hybrid of Bantu, Kikongo and Kimbundu).

Jende ri Palenge from Simón Mejía on Vimeo.

The music creates a sense of displacement through a fusion of sounds and languages that is irresistibly individual, joyfully transmitted by the vibrant performances by homegrown performers. The collection covers a broad range of treasured local sounds and interpretations. The primal, rhythmic pulse of “Kunchuzo” and driving “Rama de Tamarindo” pay homage to Angolan semba rythms, with dashes of infectious latin / afro fusion pop in “Nena” the and frivolous “Mi Gallina”.

The compilation explores the day-to-day experience of Palenque dwellers, from the bawdy, irreverent “Destápame la botella” to the raw street tale “La Mato Donde La Encuentre” and edgy “La Preñà”, a tale of family shame that explores the darker side of life in the community. A taste of the African blues vocal tradition can be heard on “Palenque, un Rincón de Africa” and “Padre No Mande en Su Casa”.

The remixes of the Palenque material however yield mixed results, with a tendency to neuter the flow and edge of the original recordings, most notably on Secondo’s “Porque Te Ries de Mi” and Matias Aguayo’s remix of “Destápame la Botella” that loses the vitality of the original performance through the affected treatment of the vocals. Saying that, the Afro-Columbian sound fuses well with Kromestar’s eerie dubstep take of “Nena” and the spacy Aurelian Riviere reworking of “Candela”. Also effective is Osunlade’s transformation of the seedy “La Preñà” into a bright, commercial dancefloor groove.

Though not an easy introduction to Afro-Columbian music for the casual listener (undoubtedtly sweetened by the inclusion of the remix CD), hardcore Latin and African music fans will find Jendi Ri Palengue a gem of a release and a valuable musical and cultural resource illuminating an obscure corner of the South American musical history and society.

Get it from the Soul Jazz website HERE.

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