Thursday, 29 May 2014

Rockstar potential

Tricky one, this blog. The challenge is how to write about a female performer who blew everyone in the venue away without turning the blog into a piece of voyeuristic male drooling. I suppose the answer is to write about the music.

I recently had the the pleasure of receiving a link to the latest single from local group La Mákina del Karibe. If you have any grasp of Spanish, you’ll spot that they have very punk-ily replaced the “C”s and the “Q”s in their name with “K”. That marks them out as linguistic rebels, fellow travellers with Barcelona squatters, graffiti artists and opponents everywhere of the Spanish Royal Academy. “Why?” you might ask. I’m not quite sure, but there’s a general sense of unhingedness with La Makina, things turned upside down in a frenetic search for a new beat. I got their album “14 Chankletazos Terapéuticos” last year (don’t overlook the provocative “K”). A “chancletazo” is a whack from a “chancleta”, a sandal or a slipper. So in translation the album title is basically “14 Therapeutic Slipperings”. Suck it up, this is good for you. The album artwork is fabulous. There’s not a “C” in sight that hasn’t been swapped for a “K”, and there’s a whole faux encyclopaedia entry quoted that explains that the group is from “Champetesburgo”. Yeah, they’re taking the piss out of “St. Petersburg”, but the Colombian twist on it is the mash up of the name with “Champeta”. That is a musical genre from the Caribbean coast, centred on Cartagena, which is a very very close relation to the sort of guitar-based African music that first came to my attention when John Peel began playing the Bhundu Boys. The guitar sparkles through this style of music, and the Makina do the same.  The album starts off on a blinder and then, inevitably, slows a little with more variety in the pacing of the songs. There’s an absolute cracker of a slow number that sounds like it should have been first recorded about a hundred years as a southern gospel song, revamped by the Makina with steel drums and African guitars (but no, it’s their song, “Ke Pasó”).

Anyway, the single is a progression from the album. “Vuelve… si quieres!” is a tease (“Come back… if you want to!”), just like the performance of the rather astonishing Monica Castillo. This tall, beautiful woman strides out on stage and takes control of the gig like she was born to be in front of a microphone. She pulls the shoulder of her blouse down and drives the blokes wild with a glimpse of what is underneath. She pouts, laughs, points, leaps, wriggles, and above all, sings her guts out. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be talking about the music. Well, the single is great, with the madness of Richie Arnedo, with the talking bits, in the background, and the guitar stomping its way across the whole song, while the bass just doesn’t stop insisting you get up and dance. There’s even accordions, and a spacey keyboard break in the middle.  It might be a change down in gear from the first album, but the melody doesn´t let up. Give it a whirl. And Monica, well, believe me, she has rockstar potential. Fernando couldn't help himself. He had to ask for a photo as she walked past us on the way out.

Check out the single here:

And here's a taste of what happens on stage:

Monday, 19 May 2014

Little guys, big noise

I don't really think it's on to write about the same band more than once, especially seeing as there's so many great bands here that I haven't got round to telling you about yet. But on Sunday we went to see Los Petit Fellas in an afternoon gig at a hamburger restaurant that opened its doors to an all-ages public. Yep, we used to like all-ages shows when our friends were straight-edgers and listened spellbound to Dag Nasty. Nowadays things have changed, and we likes all-ages shows cos we is parents and want to bring our child up as a rocker.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Shop names

There's probably a whole swathe of blogs dedicated to inappropriate words in English being used for shop names. I don't know where they are or how to find them, but here's my own little contribution. We just drove past this gem. It's a sports shop, just in case the name left you in any doubt.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Carranga time

We came up north to Tunja this morning, to celebrate Colombia's Mothers' Day with mother-in-law Nydia. More or less as soon as we got here, we headed off to Sáchica for a lunch of fried chicken, fried yuca, fried plantain and boiled potatoes. With spicy sauce (that's where they hide the vegetables - a teaspoon of chopped tomatoes and onions, mixed with vinegar and a bucket of chilli peppers). I had the vegetarian option - a fried egg. We then landed in Raquira, the multi-coloured home of Boyaca's handicraft industry. The streets are lined with shops selling mostly exactly the same things: earthenware pottery, hanging mobiles, wool knits, hammocks etc. Raquira is also famous, at a national level, for being home to carranga, a "traditional" music that bizarrely evolved a mere 40 years ago. The prime exponent of the genre is the fabulously grumpy, qualified vetinary surgeon, Jorge Velosa. We've seen him in concert many a time, indeed, I've danced drunkenly round the Plaza de Bolívar in Tunja with my mother-in-law Nydia to Jorge Velosa in the Christmas concerts. Today, in Raquira (his home town), we didn't meet him, but we did stumble across a crew from Radiolem, an archival project dedicated to documenting the musical heritage of the country. They were busy recording a group of carrangueros, five 'campesinos' who were playing for the archive in Raquira's central square. The sound isn't great on the video, but it'll give you a flavour of the chance encounter.

And for a bit more context, here's a ropey video of Jorge Velosa:

Thursday, 1 May 2014


The first of May, the day to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs, and a welcome day off work. So what do we do? Head out to the country to look for somewhere nicer to live than Bogotá. We went west, out on 80th Street, and for the second time in a year and a half ended up in Subachoque. Subachoque would seem to be a slightly weird place – can anyone explain to me why there is a rusting hovercraft parked up on the side of the road in the middle of the Andes, about 2700m above sea level and a long way away from any sizeable water feature that could possibly require its employment? (Reminds me of that story when the police discovered a submarine being built in a warehouse in Bogotá.)