In the African Bantu language, the word Enkelé means wisdom, illumination and starlight – the perfect name for a band of eleven talented women from across Colombia who sing about their land, their ancestors and the problem of machismo. Enkelé’s music is baile cantao, a form of artistic expression that originated with the Africans who arrived in Colombia as slaves.
In traditional Afro-Colombian music, women almost always assume the role of singer-songwriters.; however, until relatively recently, they weren’t trusted enough to play instruments. With its drums, bagpipes and the millo (a flute of African and indigenous origin used in the Caribbean to enliven parties), Enkelé has finally taken charge and is responsible for giving life to those instruments and sending a powerful message to combat Colombia’s machismo. Sadly, when these musicians dared to play drums for the first time at a festival in Tamalameque (northeastern Colombia), they were run out of town because they were women. But their songs “Tierra”, “El Tambó”, “Wiwa” and “Lust” eventually helped to break down the barriers. Band spokesperson Carolina Delgado says, “We continue with that fight, now it is a little friendlier and you see more women playing instruments.”With baile cantao, Enkelé do not propose anything other than recognizing the history of women in music and empowering future generations. “We want to reassure women of any age who dare to dream, that everything is possible.”