In the same way that London has its legendary Abbey Road studios, and Kingston Jamaica has its Studio One, Medellin in Colombia has Discos Fuentes. An iconic record label and studio since 1934, it is sometimes referred to as an Afro-Colombian Motown. Discos Fuentes was instrumental in introducing African-based genres such as cumbia, fandango and porro to the wider world.
In January 2011, English DJ and producer Will "Quantic" Holland, long-time resident of Colombia, teamed up with local musician Mario Galeano ( of "Frente Cumbiero") to convene at these antiquated analogue studios with forty two of the country's leading musicians, young and old to see what musical magic might happen. They invited musicians who had worked there in the 50's and 60's golden era of Colombian music along with the best and brightest of the younger generation.
The takes were live onto 4 track tape. Arrangements were written and improvised on the run. But the musicians were all equal to the task and a lush sound resulted, indicative of a very cohesive, co-operative atmosphere for those two frantic weeks of recording. The Brass arrangements in particular are to die for and the percussive drive has a punk-like energy at times. To keep us on our toes, for example, there's even a drunken ensemble version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"
There are ska, raps, beatboxing and dub sensibilities merged gloriously with the old-style Afro-Colombian genres - the serenading of the sixties Colombian crooners, such as Michi Sarmiento and Markitos Micolta - and all interwoven with the silky accordion of Anibal 'Sensacion' Velasquez. These younger musicians are realising a dream and playing - live - with their idols in these most legendary of surroundings.
There are so many classic tracks on this double CD. My own favourite is "3 Reyes de la Terapia" which mashes up marimbula, accordion and beatbox in a manner never before seen or heard in a Colombian recording studio. It was the final recording made for the LP, laid down on the last night before all the gear was packed away. It has a melancholic not-wanting-it-to-end feel courtesy some beautifully atmospheric analogue reverb and sparse instrumentation.
The two producers talk in the liner notes of wanting to create "an atmosphere of true musical discussion, learning and exchange". This they do in spades. But the FUN they had along the way is what is totally infectious. It would be fitting if this release does for Colombian culture what Buena Vista Social Club did for Cuban.