Tag: Lincoln Center

New Audio: Combo Chimbita’s Propulsive and Psychedelic New Single

Throughout JOVM’s eight-plus year history, I’ve covered Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)’s annual conference in some fashion or another. As a national service, advocacy and membership organization for those within the performing arts — particularly within dance and theater, APAP over the years has developed a reputation for their role in assisting musicians and groups, who specialize in “world music.” Along with the annual conference, which features discussion panels, lectures, networking sessions and the like for artists producing, recording and creating artwork in our extremely complicated and confusing political landscape, there are a number of carefully curated showcases hosted and/or sponsored by this city’s best known “world music” venues.  Now, as you may recall, the Lower East Side world music venue DROM hosts Barbes’ and Electric Cowbell’s annual Secret Planet APAP showcase — and earlier this year, their wildly eclectic showcase featured the New York-based Colombian folk collective Bulla en el Barrio; the Brooklyn-based act Drunken Foreigner, which specializes in a sprawling, psych rock-like iteration of the Akha and Lam Lao musics of Thailand and Laos; the Cleveland, OH-based Afro-futuristic soul act Mourning [A] BLKSTAR; the New York-based Afro-futuristic-inspired, psychedelic cumbia act Combo Chimbita; the New York-based Ethiopian funk and jazz-inspired septet Anabessa Orchestra; and the New York-based act Hearing Things which specializes in a sound that draws from Middle Eastern music, surf rock, and 60s soul and R&B.

Featuring Bulla en el Barrio’s Carolina Oliveros (vocals) along with Prince of Queens (synths and bass), Niño Lento (guitar) and Dilemastronauta (drums), Combo Chimbita began experimenting with different traditional music styles during their late night residencies at Barbes — much of this experimentation included explorations between visual identity and improvisational long-form trips that eventually lead to their thunderous 2016 self-recorded debut, El Corridor del Jaguar. Interestingly, much like Mourning [A] BLKSTR, the New York-based act is deeply inspired by Sun Ra’s Afro-futurism — while championing their own take on it, which they’ve dubbed Tropical Futurism. As the band says “the idea that the future doesn’t necessarily have to be this super white Western high-tech Star Wars stuff; that the indigenous ideas and culture of people of color, people of Latin America, can also represent a magical and substantial future. It’s a vision that maybe a lot of people don’t necessarily think about often. The old and deep knowledge that indigenous people have of the land has been neglected for many years as part of capitalism and colonization.”

Their Lily Wen-produced sophomore full-length album Abya Yala was released through Figure & Ground Records was released back in 2016, and the album further established the band’s unique futuristic take on cumbia. And along with an incredible live show, led by Oliveros powerhouse vocals and commanding stage presence, the New York-based act has begun to receive quite a bit of buzz. In fact, renowned Los Angeles-based label ANTI- Records, a label known for having a roster of wildly eclectic array of artists that includes the legendary Mavis Staples, recently signed the band. As the band’s Prince of Queens says in press notes, “ANTI- is a special label. It is crazy to be part of such a diverse pool of artists, feels extra special being an immigrant band singing in Spanish. I grew up in Bogota listening to a lot of bands on Epitaph and not understanding a word they were singing but it made me want to be in a band and learn music. It feels like full circle working with [Epitaph’s sister label] ANTI-.”

The members of Combo Chimbita will be closing out a big year with a series of live shows the include sets at Lincoln Center and Philadelphia’s PhilaMOCA before joining Parquet Courts for the Midwestern leg of the indie rock’s current tour. You can check out the tour dates below. But before that, the band has released a trippy new single “Testigo,” a track centered by a looping Afro pop-like guitar line, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, rolling and propulsive percussion, a sinuous bass line and Oliveros’ powerhouse vocals. Sonically speaking, their sound serves as a power reminder of how much contemporary music — particularly Latin American music — draws from Africa, as much as it does from their own native traditions, and they do so in a wildly anachronistic yet dance floor friendly fashion. 

A great deal of the popular music that we know and love can trace its origins to the church and to gospel music in some way or another. Artists such as Aretha FranklinAl GreenDionne WarwickCissy Houston and her daughter Whitney HoustonGladys Knight, Teddy RileyMary J. BligeR. KellyThe Staple Singers and an incredibly lengthy list of others can claim that their start when they sang gospel and spirituals at their local church. Nor should it be surprising to recognize that many of the Mississippi Delta bluesman, who had influenced the sound and aesthetic of rock ‘n’ roll had either played in a church, were inspired by gospel and spirituals — or were generally just intimately familiar with the music. Now while gospel and spirituals haven’t seen a whole lot of love across secular media outlets or the blogosphere, there have been a few gospel acts that have seen some level of crossover/secular attention — in particular Kirk Franklin, who landed a hit with 1997’s “Stomp,” Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, who received attention with 2014’s impressive Cold World and  Joshua Nelson, “The Prince of Kosher Gospel,” an artist who ties together Jewish Temple songs with gospel in a way that’s incredibly soulful — and interestingly enough makes a lot of sense. Of course while each of those artists have a unique take on gospel and spirituals, there’s one thing they have in common — they believe in music with a powerfully uplifting message that will move audiences, whether you’re secular or deeply religious.

Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I wrote about The Jones Family Singers. Comprised of patriarch, Bishop Fred Jones, Sr. (vocals), his daughters Ernestine (vocals), Sabrina (vocals), Velma (vocals), ‘Trelle (vocals), his sons Kenny (bass) and Fred, Jr. (guitar, piano), along with Matthew Hudlin (drums), Ezra Bryant (guitar) and Duane Herbert (percussion) have seen a rapidly growing national and international profile with the release of  Alan Berg’s documentary The Jones Family Will Make a Way, which features live footage of their New York City area debut at Lincoln Center, as well as tour stops in Germany, The Netherlands and festival stops in NewportWinnipegLos AngelesMonterey and others — thanks in part to a sound that while effortlessly meshing rock, the blues and gospel, manages to nod at the legendary Staple Family Singers.

Recently, renowned producer and guitarist Adrian Quesada invited The Jones Family Singers to take part in his “Live at Level One” cover series and their contribution to the series is a soulful cover of Johnny Cash‘s “All God Children’s Ain’t Free,” a single that manages to be as socially and politically necessary as ever, as the song reminds the listener that there’s much urgent work to be done to achieve the American ideals of freedom, justice and opportunity for all. As Bishop Fred Jones, Sr. explains of their cover in press notes, “No matter how high and mighty you think you are, never forget the people beneath you. Everyone needs an opportunity right now, and this song is a necessary statement for us to make at this crucial time in our nation’s history.”

The multi-generational family band will be touring across the Northeast next week as part of a series of shows to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Check out tour dates below.

Tour Dates:

Sat, Jan 14 – Hampton, VA @ The American Theatre
Sun & Mon, Jan 15/16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kimmel Center (SEI Innovation Studio)
Thu, Jan 19 – Hanover, NH @ Hopkins Center
Fri, Jan 20 – Portland, ME @ Portland Ovations