Wilson Cifuentes Late Junction producer Juan Carlos Jaramillo introduces the musicians and unusual instruments from a recent session recording in Colombia. You can hear the results in Late Junction on Thursday 31 May
Late Junction producer Juan Carlos Jaramillo introduces the musicians and unusual instruments from a recent session recording in Colombia. You can hear the results in Late Junction on Thursday 31 May
The first thing that came to my mind when planning this Late Junction session in Bogotá was making sure we offered a varied and colourful portrait of Colombia’s music. Ok, I wasn’t after traditional folk music as such, as that’s not necessarily the aim in this type of session, but rather to find musicians who’d be inspired by the country’s cultural diversity and who’d be able to blend it all with modern, studio produced sounds.
After all, Colombia is an amazingly rich and varied country, 4.5 times bigger in size than the UK, and its complex geography has produced quite distinct and clear cultural regions, each with its own music – there’s every climate on earth at any given time; there’s the Andes with its high, snowed mountains travelling across the whole country from South to North; there’s plenty of seaside with coasts both in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, the latter a region which culturally belongs to the Caribbean; and there are huge plains to the East, and the Amazon rainforest to the South to add for good measure. And if you add to this the blend of races and cultures coming from the local indigenous populations still living there, the black Africans which arrived as slaves centuries ago, and the Spanish and European heritage which came with the Conquistadors, you’ll find that Colombia is many countries in one!
Hence, I got multi-talented keyboard player Carlos Iván Medina involved in this Late Junction project as ‘Distrito Especial’, the band he helped to create back in the 1980s reached iconic status in the country’s rather underdeveloped rock scene. Then came the other musician in this experiment: Wilson Cifuentes, as I wanted somebody rooted in the folk music traditions – and he fitted the bill as he’s played all sorts of wind instruments and percussion in some of the biggest folk music groups of the last 20 years. Wilson has other strings to his bow as he has a soft spot for Jazz and plays the saxophone and the clarinet in other bands closer to the urban scene. Both Carlos Iván and Wilson love to improvise, something that I hope shows in the session!
For the first piece of our session, which they appropriately called ‘kwisi’, I wanted Wilson to concentrate on the two types of flutes he brought along to the studio: first and foremost the kwisi, also called gaita as the Spaniards found it similar to a flute they had in their own music. The kwisi has been traditionally made from local cane by different indigenous tribes in the North of Colombia, near the Caribbean, and it’s the instrument associated with Cumbia, undoubtedly the country’s most famous rhythm. Wilson wanted to use, at the very beginning of the piece another, smaller flute, this one coming from the Orinoco region, closer to the frontier with Venezuela. The piece has a dream-like atmosphere thanks to the delay we put in the recording and its calm, reflective pace.