Afro-Ecuadorian Marimba Music

March 26, 2010

A regular podcaster of Georges Colinnet’s Brooklyn based radio show on PRI, Afropop Worldwide, I occasionally and very frustratingly hear painfully brief samples of mellifluous music that get interrupted by Georges’ edifying discussion. My one critique of the show is that I would love to have a few full songs to listen to.
That said, his show from January of last year (I can lag behind on my listening) on Afro-Ecuadorian music was so good as to inspire me to buy this album on Ecuador and Columbia marimba masters, and this one on Papa Roncón, a mighty marimba playing, Howlin’ Wolf-channeling Ecuadorian from the coastal region known as Esmeraldas. I actually have been to Esmeraldas – I was there in 1999 with my friend Jorge for a 5 day excursion to the beach. It’s a harrowing journey from Quito through the mountains, and it is no surprise to me that there were no roads to Esmeraldas until 1950.
According to the book No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today:
The documented history of Ecuador establishes the beginnings of Afro-Hispanic culture in what is now Esmeraldas, Ecuador, where a Spanish slaving ship ran aground in 1553. There, a group of twenty-three Africans from the coast of Guinea, led by a black warrior named Antón, attacked the slavers and liberated themselves. Not long after, this group, together with other blacks entering the region, led by a ladino (Hispanicized black person) named Alonso de Illescas, came to dominate the region from northern Manabí north to what is now Barbacoas, Colombia. At this time (late sixteenth century) intermixture with indigenous peoples, to whom black people fled to establish their palenques (villages of self-liberated people – some fortified, some not), was such that their features were described as zambo (black-indigenous admixture), synonyms of which were negro (black) and mulato (mixed or hybrid black-white). …
… By 1599 black people were clearly in charge of what was called “La República de Zambos” or “Zambo Republic”. Zambo refers to people of colour who are descendants of Native Americans and African-Americans. In that year a group of Zambo chieftains, said to represent 100,000 or more Zambo people of Esmeraldas, trekked to Quito to declare loyalty to Spain. An oil painting of these chiefs from the emerald land of the Zambo Republic is portrayed by the “Indian artist” Adrián Sánchez Galgue [sic]; it is reportedly the earliest signed and dated painting from South America.
(Thanks to this site for the info and photo).

However, accompanying the declaration of loyalty was the reality of geographical and cultural isolation that characterized the region up until the mid 20th century. This has kept the music distinct, unique and raw as demonstrated by the temas below. I love the colors and timbres of the melancholic marimba, and the lazy rhythmic pulse of the percussion is just awesome.
From Tierra Caliente:

Andarele Vamanos – Tierra Caliente

Agua Larga – Tierra Caliente

From Papa Roncón and Katanga:

Agua Larga – Papa Roncón & Katanga

And finally here’s the podcast that influenced the post and here’s reading material. The opening track is incredible, but I can’t find any information on it, so if anyone has any idea, let me know!

Afropop 1/29/09: The Other Afro-Latino – Hidden Sounds from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uruguay


2 Responses to “Afro-Ecuadorian Marimba Music”

  1. Matt Says:

    Wow, I love this stuff. It reminds me of Stella Chiweshe..

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