By the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester, the word was out among the Latino community at UNC: ChocQuibTown is coming to town! Those of us who had seen them before know that the experience is unforgettable: the powerful integration of hip-hop beats and the magical chants and marimba sounds of the Colombian Pacific completely absorbs the audience, and bodies are carried away in non-stop dancing.
ChocQuibTown has marked a milestone in the trajectory of contemporary Latin American musica fusion. This burgeoning genre “fuses” electro-beats, hip-hop, rock or jazz, with the rural “roots” – the rhythms, melodies, movements and festive practices that have developed through interwoven histories of Afro-descendant, indigenous and European territorial presences.
ChocQuibTown’s music reflects the towns, villages, rivers, and coasts of Colombia’s Pacific region, where Afro-descendant communities recreated cultural traditions from their nations of origin. Yet at the same time, ChocQuibTown is global, urban and contemporary. This balance of old and new is evident not only in their musical styles and beats, but also in the content of their lyrics. Music is the vehicle for this group of young Afro-Colombians to voice the concerns and political critiques of those living amidst violence, as well as the environmental and the social impacts of current mining booms in Choco, their region of origin.
Local Afro-Colombian experiences have entered global musical circuits through ChocQuibTown’s talent and creativity. Their album Oro (Gold) was nominated as Best Latin Rock Album in 2011, and “De Donde Vengo Yo” (Where I Come From) won Best Alternative Song in the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards, among other global nominations and awards.
In November, ChocQuibTown meets us live at Memorial Hall, giving our campus and community an opportunity to dance, hear and feel the richness of African legacies in contemporary Latin American urban cultures.
Eloisa Berman- Arévalo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography at UNC. Her areas of interest are political mobilization, land/ territory, identities and agrarian change in Latin America.