Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Diamante Eléctrico

Diamante Eléctrico
Time for another musical outing, pop pickers. You might think I’m being really lazy with the curatorial side of the musical selection on the blog by just going through the list of bands who played showcases in our Bogotá Music Market, and you’d be right as well. Thing is, all the bands who played were amazing, so I don’t really need to look any further for the time being.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

National Debt

It’s probably about time I got my finger out and started trying to tell you about the astonishing number of great bands that make music in Colombia at the moment. The country has treated me like a prince with the amount of wonderful music it has brought into my life, it wouldn't be too much for me to at least return some of the favour. It might help if I put it in context. My context. I get to organise the Bogotá Music Market (BOmm) for the local Chamber of Commerce. It seems like a weird place to have ended up working, but once a year all the threads come together for a two day event where we put the best local bands onstage for international programmers to listen to, and have conference talks from music industry experts, and have a day of speed networking, where the bands and the buyers can have 15 minute meetings to get to know each other, and start building relationships that ideally end up in the musicians finding more paid work. The purpose of it all is to build the local music scene, obviously from a business perspective, given that it is the Chamber of Commerce, and open up more possibilities for the musicians to be able to make a living from their music. This year, our second year, we had programmers from all over the world come to Bogotá to be our guests. Perhaps our biggest hitter was Geoff Ellis, the bloke that runs the “T in the Park” festival in Scotland.  I was certainly pleased to have a Brit to talk to for two days in Bogotá… that doesn't happen very often!

Herencia de Timbiqui - BOmm 2013
One of the key features of the event are the showcases, where the bands who have been selected by the curators get to play a 15 minute set in order to dazzle the venue owners and programmers who are looking for talent to put on their stages. It is a curious format… you have to try to make an impact in a pretty short period of time, a time frame that isn't really long enough to build a relationship with the audience, so showcases can be a bit of a challenge. On top of that the showcases for our BOmm this year kicked off right after the opening speeches, at 9:30 am on a Wednesday morning. Imagine the horror! But the showcase that set the BOmm alight right from the off came courtesy of Herencia de Timbiquí. This is a group of lads playing music from Timbiquí, a little town on the Pacific coast of Colombia. It must be a pretty special place, for it seems like nobody does anything there except produce fabulous traditional music. It's the birthplace of “Canalón de Timbiquí”, the group fronted by Nidia Gongora, the main female voice on the Ondatropica album that you should have heard by now (and are on your way to buy if you haven’t).

Monday, 19 August 2013

On the bars

I've been told off recently for not posting enough pics of the family. You know when they say that to you that they don't really mean pics of the three of us, they mean good quality photographs in high definition of the child. As previously warned, the procurement of this new phone toy has expanded my recording capabilities, so here I'm sharing with you proud father moment number #2115.

For those of you unsufficiently impressed with this feat, this was his second time crossing the monkey bars unaided. The first time I wasn't expecting him to make it across and so wasn't filming!

There's a prize for anyone who can work out the significance of the number.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Desorden Social

Here's a quick treat for you. Taking me right back to my roots, Desorden Social are a ska-punk band from Bogota who have been on the go since 1996. Things get a bit confusing if you Google them, as there is also a Colombian rap band by the exact same name, and they've just released an album, so it must be hell working in the local record shops and dealing with cross, confused Desorden Social customers. Not that the ska-punkers can complain much - their moniker is a Spanish translation of Social Disorder, and yes, you guessed it, there was a Social Disorder playing growly metally hardcore in the Agnostic Front mould, round New York in the early nineties. If the Myspace stats are anything to go by, Desorden Social are definitely the most popular incarnation of this pair of words.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


On the road north from Bogotá to Tunja, there's a place we regularly stop for arepas, the corn flour and cheese patties that are a staple of Boyaca cuisine. "The National Arepa Factory", it is humbly named, although there is a stretch of about ten kilometers that is completely lined with restaurants and cafes selling arepas, so I suppose you have to try to make your mark one way or another. On Saturday they decided to push the boat out and make a very special welcome for their vegetarian customers. A severed cow's head hung by the door, its tongue sticking out at a bizarre angle, blowing a belated and futile raspberry in the face of the slaughterman. Still fancy an arepa, or have you suddenly lost your appetite?

Once the truly perfectionist arepa maker has cooked the arepa
 on both sides, he or she then plonks them down onto
 little rotating platters next to the charcoal, so that the edges
get browned and crisped up.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Crew Peligrosos & Los Petit Fellas

I've a fear that this blog post is going to come out achingly white. Y'see, we need to talk about hip-hop. But the problem is I know feck all about hip-hop. There's probably a cassette of a Public Enemy LP somewhere in my house in Belfast, but if you need to talk to someone from Belfast about hip-hop, it should really be Hippopotamus Rex. That's my friend Ronan Hamill. He knows so much about hip-hop and rap they gave him a show on PBS radio in Australia, but he's abandonded social media, and you won't get an answer if you write to him so you'll have to listen to me for the time being. I just hope this doesn't come out sounding like Ali G took over Ivied Feet for the morning...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Holding out for a (HTC) Hero, Pt II

So, it's been a good while since anything went up on this blog. Don't think I haven't missed you all, or missed the chance to stand tall and proud on an icy, inhospitable, unvisited little outcrop of the internet and shout my deliriums to the four winds. The words don't stop echoing round inside my head, and there are certainly plenty of words, so perhaps it's for the best that some if them find escape onto the pages of Ivied Feet, at least it'll take the pressure off the shunt.

The truth of the matter is that I have buckled in the face of modern society's imperative that I compensate a soulless existence with the trinkets that late capitalism conjures up in exchange for our salaries. A new phone has been had, and what a trinket it is. It has a shiny screen that moves when you touch it (not like those Blackberries), it has a bit that downloads the internet (not like the last Nokia), and it has Google inside, so not a bit like those cheapie eyefones. Yes, I've fallen back into the arms of HTC, and this time it is personal (cos Google already synced all my data). There is even an applification for writing duff blog posts. So you've been warned. The frequency of mindless spew coupled with blurry cameraphone pictures is about to go through the roof. No one is forcing you to read this though, are they?

Or as my mum commented, "what's the point of a phone that needs you to have an armed guard with you if you're going to take it out of your pocket on the street in Bogotá?" Mum clearly got the hang of Bogotá. The Play Store doesn't seem to have an armed guard app.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cartagena de Indias

I got sent to Cartagena by work to take part in the Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival. I don't mean to make it sound too involuntary... there are some upsides to this job! I was last here in 1996, and in the intervening years, two things have happened: (1) the locals have scrubbed the historic city centre up enormously, and (2) I had forgotten just how astonishingly beautiful this city is. It seems so appropriate for a film festival to take place here, for the whole walled city looks like the back drop to Pirates of the Caribbean. It's late now, so I'm going to leave you with a few quick pics of the place, and an invitation to visit my Justgiving page in order to help me raise the funds to come back here as soon as possible.

This (above) was the showing of a number of short films, including the hilarious Colombian short Rodri which seemed to be an audience favourite after its participation in Cannes last year.

The "Cinema Under the Stars" series finished off the Saturday night with a presentation of the Italian Vittorio di Sico's "Umberto D".


Round the corner from the hotel at midnight.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

La Mambanegra

Here's a contemporary salsa track that is an instant classic. The video was only recently released, and it is a riot. The characters are taken from the history of Cali and its festivals, but if you want more details on that you're going to have to ask someone who knows something about the city... These guys, La Mambanegra, deliver a sledgehammer blast of salsa that I had the pleasure of seeing live in Circulart in Medellin last year, like some of the other music I've mentioned on here before. Since then I've been desperately searching to find more evidence of them online, but this video just surfaced recently. The singer, Jacobo Velez (link is to a Google translation of a news article on him and this new project), was the founder of contemporary legends "La Mojarra Electrica", although he left recently to focus on this new group. Here they are with "La Compostura" - it's a cliche, but turn it up!

Here's a quick introduction to La Mojarra Electrica in English with subtitles for the interviews.

And here's the last little bit of Mambanegra I can find online, an Electronic Press Kit video on Vimeo:

Let me know what you think... or even better, let them know what you think. La Mambanegra on Twitter.

Monday, 7 January 2013

You say merengue

I've just realised I can't say "meringue" any more. I tried to type it and it came out "merengue". Which is Spanish for "meringue" (man, that looks really weird with the "i" in the middle of the word), and is also the name of a type of music that comes from the Dominican Republic and is exemplified by Juan Luis Guerra.

For some reason Sundays in Colombia are celebrated by baking merengue at home and driving to the side of a road somewhere busy and selling squares of it to people who celebrate Sundays by driving out of the city to find sticky sweet stuff at the side of the road. I don't pretend to understand this custom, but give me a couple more years and I'll get back to you on it. In the meantime, here's Juan Luis with one of his classics...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

3 things that nearly killed us this week

It's been a more than usually exciting week on the foreshortened mortality front. We are currently in Medellin, having got here after spending a few days in el valle, near Cali. We travelled north and decided to break the journey by stopping at the Santa Rosa de Cabal thermal spring complex. We lounged in volcanically heated water (up to a temperature of about 40 degrees, according to the book), and then dried off and walked back to the car. As the complex did not, as advertised, have any towels to rent, we had had to take turns with the one towel that my mother had brought all the way from Belfast to Santa Rosa de Cabal. This meant that the girls, the first to dry off, were already back at the car waiting for us as the boys, Oisin and I, grudged through the twilight to join them and head off to find a hotel. As we got to the car, Pati turned and yelled "HIJUEPUTA, una serpiente!" This roughly translates as "FUCK ME, a snake!" I froze for a second, and then turned to see a one metre long snake sliding past where the boy and I had just walked a moment ago. The lad minding the car park went "jesus" in a fairly un-reassuring way, and we all fumbled like mad to get into the car and lock the doors (not the car park lad, we abandoned him to his own fate, which seemed to involve directing the unsuspecting newly arrived 4x4 to drive over the snake. This was unsuccessful and only seemed to guarantee that he would have to share the car park with a really, really, irate snake.) As we stared at each other in disbelief, Pati told us that the car park lad had shouted that it was a "rabo de aji" (chilli tail) - "Coral Snake" in English. I did recall seeing black bands on it, which tallies with the description. A description that includes, according to the Wiki entry, the observation that "New World coral snakes possess one of the most potent venoms of any North American snake". Presumably the South American ones will be harmless, then, eh?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The White City

La Ermita, Popayan
Today we went off to Popayan. We've been staying in Pati's aunt and uncle's house in Palmira, close to Cali, and Popayan was a reasonably smooth two hour drive south from here. The last time I was there was in 1997, and I had good memories of the place - mainly white memories, as the whole of the city centre is maintained in what I presume is its original colonial colour scheme - white. Popayan is 1760m above sea level, so it was fresher than Palmira, which at 1000m above sea level has been doing a good impression of an open air furnace since we've been here.