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Hipster English Producer Taps Music, Musicians of Colombian Golden Age

Nidia Gongora, part of the “Ondatropica” project, at a London performance

Two dozen near-forgotten veterans of Colombia’s musical golden age gathered earlier this year in a Medellín studio — the same place they made those old hits of the ’60s and ’70s. But this time around they were joined by younger artists and, co-directing the whole thing, a hipster English producer.

Amid the mix of old and new sounds were gaitas and champetas drawing on styles from Colombia’s Pacific and Atlantic coastal regions, beat-boxing by the youngest participant (percussionist Chongo, 25) and a first-time rap from its eldest (flutist Pedro “Ramayá” Beltrán, 82).

And then there was the cumbia version of Black Sabbath’s”Iron Man.”

It’s all on “Ondatrópica,” the new, two-CD set drawn from the sessions, and can be heard Sunday at the Mayan Theater in downtown L.A., when a dozen of the participants from the sessions perform.

But what’s perhaps most striking about Ondatrópica is that its mix and match of styles and eras is hardly an exercise in kitsch.

In fact, it’s quite possible to listen to “Iron Man” — here titled “I Ron Man” and sung in Spanish — without even realizing it’s the Sabbath song until a ways in. The groove is so strong, the performance so organic with its layers of percussion and horns, it sounds like something straight from these musicians’ own traditions.

“I just think it’s Colombian, isn’t it?” says Will Holland, the hipster Englishman, better known under his performing/producing name Quantic.

It might have been done with a little wink, Holland allows, but it is no gimmick. Rather, he says, it’s true to the progressive legacy of Discos Fuentes, the historic Colombian label and studio honored in this project.

“Otherwise it’s all these people living their lives as a gimmick,” he insists, on the eve of the touring group’s debut performances in London as part of pre-Olympics festivities. “It’s quite real.”

That was crucial to Holland, who’s made Colombia his home since 2006. He plays accordion with his band Combo Barbaro…

Read more: LA Times


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