Batata Y Su Rumba Palenquera Radio Bakongo Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Fans of Afro-Latin roots music will love this album.

Jon Lusk 2003

Fans of Afro-Latin roots music will love this album.

Setuagenarian percussionist, singer and songwriter Paulino Salgado 'Batata' hails from the village of San Basilio de Palenque, hidden away in an isolated mountain range close to Colombia's Caribbean coast. This is the legendary 'village of the Cimarróns', founded four centuries ago by Africans who had escaped the slave port of nearby Cartagena. They successfully defended it from attack by the Spanish, who eventually gave up and 'granted' them their freedom.

Batata and his excellent band specialise in son palenquera and champeta, and may already have come to your attention through the inclusion of the track Ataole on the "Champeta Criolla Vol. 2" compilation. That CD focussed largely on Cartagena's sound system based form of champeta, a newish hybrid style which cannibalises pan-African and indigenous Colombian influences, spicing them up with mucho shouting and sometimes irritating use of trashy effects. What might be a lot of fun at a rum-fuelled street party makes for a sometimes wearing experience in other contexts.Thankfully Batata's band stick to a much rootsier groove, employing tiple, accordion, brass, twinkling soukous guitar, plenty of drummers and call-and-response vocals to create their hypnotic grooves.

Batata belongs to a famed dynasty of drummers and got his first break in the 1960s when he joined Toto la Momposina's group and toured with her for the next two decades. She's also recorded a number of his songs. The sleevenotes tellingly describe him as 'the Wendo Kolosoy of Colombia', and like that grand old man of Congolese rumba, he has a deliciously off-key lived in voice.

There is also good use of several guest musicians from the Congo and Nigeria - the parts of Africa which the Cimarróns originally came from - thus completing the trans-Atlantic circle of influence that gave rise to this vibrant music. Africa in America offers up yet another wonderful surprise.

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