Words by Clyde Macfarlane
No one does Colombia with as much attention to detail as Soundway Records. Their latest two-CD release, Ondatrópica, is a Buena Vista Social Club-style meeting between experience and youth, with the club in question being Discos Fuentes. Enthusiasts may have heard Soundway’s acclaimed Colombia!, a well-informed dip into Fuentes between 1960 and 1976. Fruko, the multi-instrumentalist star of that compilation, again offers his talents, along with trumpeter Jorge Gaviria and the legendary millo flute player Pedro Ramaya.
What made Colombia! a great compilation was its slick arrangements of percussion and horns. Ondatrópica shows that raw power is no less potent in 2012. The opening ‘Tiene Sabor, Tiene Sazón’ is an infectious lesson in Latin percussion, with the metallic double-hit of a timbales drum slicing through a deliciously rich mix of trumpets, trombones and female vocals.
So how does Colombia’s new generation measure up? They are distinctive not so much as individuals but by their shared style, giving high-energy ska makeovers to several tracks. At one point Chongo, the youngest Ondatrópica musician, beatboxes over a traditional accordion solo with a clever suck and fuzz of air through a microphone; the two sounds become almost indistinguishable – as does the fusion between old and new throughout much of the album. The timeless, universal bonding via the knocking back of a drink or two can be heard on a drunken rendition of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, shouted out by the whole troupe, led by producers Will ‘Quantic’ Holland and Mario Galeano. Utter chaos is given a structure by a militantly slick – if a tad tipsy – bandleader. This is Colombian music at its best.