Colombia is the new Cuba —a country rich in tropical music of astonishing variety, particularly along the Pacific coast with its large African population. There you’ll find Rio Mira, a thrilling collaboration between musicians from neighbouring Ecuador and Colombia.
Named after a river that flows just over the Colombian border, the band revitalises the music of the cimarrones, enslaved persons who, beginning in the 16thcentury, escaped from plantations and shipwrecked ships and then settled in El Pacífico.The region’s music is so unique that it has been granted cultural heritage status by UNESCO; however, there is nothing quaint or old-fashioned about Rio Mira. The group’s distinctive sound is dominated by two marimbas (a xylophone-like instrument that has its roots in Africa) matched against drums and shakers, along with impressive call-and-response vocals and harmonies.
In this enchanting ensemble, the marimba is played by renowned musicians Esteban Copete, who is Afro-Colombian, and Larri Preciado, who’s Afro-Ecuadorian. As with many Latin American instruments, it performs both a melodic and rhythmic role and, inherently, tells the story of its own Bantu roots. Over the years, the emblematic marimba music of Esmeraldas, Ecuador and region has come to represent the cimarrones’ Afro-Pacific identity and the West African traditions they had preserved. Rio Mira’s 2017 debut album, Adiós Morena, was produced by Iván Benavides, one of Colombia’s leading producers.
Their most recent album, Marimba Del Pacifico, is comprised of five songs each from Colombia and Ecuador, demonstrating the “bi-national” nature of the project as well as the diversity of the cultural heritage they represent.