Music is a bit like cooking: sensations are renewed with fusion. Every trip also involves some crossing. For centuries, people and rhythms have migrated to mix with local expressions and give life to new music. Today, artists have completely naturalized genre-bending. And there must be countless mixtures that involve music with African roots, some more traditional and others more electronic. We even see paths of return: Caribbean rhythms that were taken up by African artists, such as the Orchestra Baobab. Music is naturally cross-border. And that has always fascinated us here at Tigre.
The crossover between African and Afro-Caribbean music flows so organically that it seems never to run out. It doesn’t matter that the Orchestra Baobab has been around for many years and has lost some crew members on the journey: they still sound fresh. Founded in 1970 in Dakar, Senegal, this multiethnic band began with the mission of adapting the then-current fashion of Cuban music in West Africa. Their success faded in the following decade, until they disbanded in 1987. They reappeared in 2001, thanks to the growing interest that their albums aroused in Europe. This year they celebrated their 50th anniversary with a special Dome session at The House of KOKO.
If something has always marked the “alterlatino” movement, from Café Tacuva to Calle 13, it’s the constant crossing of genres. And if there’s a band that today seems to renew that spirit, it’s Rawayana. We could say that their pillars are reggae and funk, with special care for catchy melodies and without giving up their pop-rock foundations. But we can also assure that they have an amazing ease in switching between different rhythms and moods, from dancehall to neo-soul, R&B to Afrobeat, hip-hop to salsa. The best proof is their still recent and long-awaited fifth album, ¿Quién Trae Las Cornetas? Here the Venezuelan quartet fulfills their sound fantasies and has fun with music again.
From his artistic alias, Cimafunk, the Cuban singer Erik Rodríguez signs up for fusion. “Afro-Cuban funk,” he briefly defines his musical blend, linked to a wordplay that refers first to the cimarrones, the black slaves who escaped pursuing a life of freedom. “I feel very identified with that whole culture,” he adds. “Then there’s the word ‘funk’: pure living joy.” Cimafunk is the meeting of those worlds: that of Afro-Caribbean with African-American, that of salsa with funk, that of rumba with soul. A communion between Funkadelic and Irakere, between the Ohio Players and Los Van Van. Electric by nature, he radiates groove with every step. And when he goes on stage, everything goes boom.
Multicultural and multilingual, Pedro Fontes Veiga – aka June Freedom – sings in English, Portuguese and Spanish. He also does it in Kriolu, a minority Creole language from Cape Verde. That volcanic archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa is where his family is from and where he grew up, although he was born in Boston and in recent years he has lived first in New York and now in LA. Difficult to locate, however, this transatlantic artist has easily joined that global party that mixes worldbeat, alt-pop, R&B and Afrobeats as a universal language. He also reflects part of Cape Verdean culture with traditional dances such as zouk and kizomba. He has two albums: 2021’s Anchor Baby and the brand-new 7 Seas.
Ileana Cabra Joglar, better known as iLe, has been crossing genres for some time now. She started in the music industry as a teenage singer for Calle 13, the Puerto Rican alternative band she shared with her half-brothers, Residente and Visitante. Released in mid-2016, her solo debut Ilevitable won a Grammy for “Best Rock, Urban or Alternative Album”. There she deploys a songbook that refuses to conform to established labels, taking retro inspiration from delicate ballads, orchestrated bolero and percussive boogaloo. Her next albums, 2019’s Almadura and 2022’s Nacarile, expand the sonic search with new fusions, from traditional rhythms to futuristic synths.
A fusion of Afro-Caribbean roots with the hypnotic power of African house, the Colombian trio Ghetto Kumbé combines the ancestral with the futuristic. Here, the dance trance is almost a condition, an irresistible act, and a consequence of their main sound element: a powerful percussion base. They have a recurring word when describing their music: ritual. Motivated by the good omens of their first EPs, 2016’s Kumbé and 2017’s Soy Selva, they took their tropical house and drum ceremony to an even higher level, to pour it into what would become their self-titled full-length album, co-produced by the London-based duo The Busy Twist and released in 2020 by ZZK Records.
Formed ten years ago in Havana by DJs and producers Paula Fernández and Zahira Sánchez, PAUZA is the first women’s electronic music project in Cuba. From the beginning, they always sought to blend electronic beats with local traditional music – genres like cha-cha-chá, pilón and rumba. “The beauty of this is to create something different, something of your own, especially coming from Cuba, where there’s so much musical wealth. It would be crazy not to take advantage of it,” they said in an interview for Diario de Cuba, making it clear that their music is inconceivable without the idea of fusion: “We mix the contemporary world with the ancient world of our Afro-Cuban roots.”
Born in Bogotá but based in Mexico City, Sinego has made bolero his sound signature in the Latin electronic scene. The path of this DJ and producer is a constant back and forth, building and crossing bridges, doing his thing in an artistic frontier that oscillates between the mainstream and the underground, between the elemental use of electronic dance music and the rescue of traditional genres – what he calls “legacy sounds”, where bolero prevails as its distinctive hallmark, but where there’s also a place for cumbia, salsa, mambo and tango. This year, he released Alterego, an accomplished album that explores different rhythms and cultural expressions from Latin America.