Tumaco is a small city located in Colombia’s southwestern corner, on the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 95 percent of Tumaqueños are Afro-Colombian, while the other five percent are Mestizos (mixed race) and Indigenous (the Awá people). A few years ago, ten young people from Tumaco formed Bejuco, a band that mixes traditional music from the Colombian South Pacific with Nigerian Afrobeat and other African rhythms. In the words of Bejuco Music Director Juan Carlos “Canquita” Mindinero, “We are strong branches of trees that tie the ancestral knowledge with a new sound”. That new sound is being shaped by jazz, rock, fusion, salsa, timba, reggae, rap etc., heard through young African, Caleños and European ears.
Tumaco is truly sonorous territory, but it is also the scene of paradoxical wealth: the cultural legacy, music and nature there are as abundant as the deficiencies generated by state abandonment, violence and structural racism. Sadly, until 20 years ago, Tumaco did not even feature on the map of Colombia. With Bejuco’s success, it is hard not to notice this port city today.
Iván Benavides, the great architect of new Colombian music, describes the sound he developed with the musicians of Bejuco: “Nowhere in the country have I found that relationship between Africa and Colombia as in Palenque and in the south of Nariño (Tumaco). They are two such special regions: perhaps because of their very remoteness they have preserved this type of language. The complexity of the West African polyrhythms (what they call the chureos) finds them very much alive in the South Pacific.”
Bejuco’s brand new album, titled Batea, was produced on the Discos Pacífico label by Iván Benavides and Cerrero. It is now available on all platforms, and a video for the first single (also titled “Batea”) can be viewed on YouTube.