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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Various Artists

By Ernest Barteldes
Published March 16, 2007

Arriba Suena Marimba
Smithsonian Folkways 40514


On this album, the cultural traditions of Colombia's Afro-Latino community, formed mostly by the descendants of former slaves, are celebrated in songs that have nothing to do with salsa or meringue. The central sound here is the Afro-Pacific marimba, a rustic instrument made from wooden keys suspended over bamboo resonators, with backing from drums and a maraca-like instrument called the guasá. Though it’s clearly influenced by the players’ African ancestry, there is also a very obvious Roman Catholic tinge to this music, as the songs' lyrics (sung by a choir of women) very often have religion or temptation as major themes, as can be heard in “Lo que Me Trajo El Niño Dios” (What the Christ Child Brought Me), “Vamos Adorar a Antonio” (Let's Worship St. Anthony) or “Salomé.” Definitely not for the casual listener, this record documents a tradition to which few Anglo listeners have likely ever been exposed.