Occur Goes Global - The Music of Colombia

“Colombia is magical realism,” claims the tourism website of the South American country. Referring to the enchanted literature of Gabriel García Márquez, the slogan suggests a land beyond the peripheral. One might equate Colombia with the drug wars of yore or of rich coffees. The greatest riches lie within Colombian culture. Here we explore five bands and artists that exemplify magical realism.


Silvestre Dangond

Catchy and lively, Silvestre Dangond’s music is considered La Nueva Ola— the new wave of Vallenato. His spirited offerings are deeply rooted, as his parents were musicians, and he grew up relishing European-style accordions and Latin-African drums. He sings passionately about change and anti-materialism, draping himself in simple capes and frenzied rhythms, to audiences of thousands.


The Mills

If you like your rock music with a little dance-floor ecstasy, the Mills will enthrall you. Fronted by the charming Alvaro “Bako” Charry, the Mills have the enthusiasm and songwriting wit of Walk the Moon. The quintet have been performing around Colombia since 2006, and their Facebook page has been hinting at new material.


Mr. Black

Growing up impoverished led Edwin Antequera Mercado to channel his dreams into champeta, a genre forged from African and Caribbean sounds. His is a peaceful mission, in which he tries “to tell them to stop fighting, to put down their weapons, to end the war, to think of the future,” he told Good in 2014. With empowering anthems such as “La Cuerda Floja,” he’s well on his way.


Pedrina y Rio

Somos enamoradas con “Enamorada,” a hypnotic marriage of sugar-sweet vocals and raucous percussion. Indie rock meets disco and mod coolness in the guise of Pedrina y Rio, the duo formed in 2012 by Edna Arcila and Javier Cerón. The former’s bird-like singing and the latter’s spidery programming make for a gorgeous, enticing combo. Thank you to Billboard for the recommendation! (Lead image courtesy Arbol Naranja.)


MC Jana

The hardcore poet is regarded as one of the grittiest female rappers in the world. Her voice rivals DMX’s; her confidence rivals Donald Trump’s; but her flow is completely her own. As of late, she tends to rap over classical music, giving her a cultured edge that spans the barrio and the opera house. Jana might be El Contra del Mundo (against the world), but she’s bringing fans together under the banner of feminism and Colombian pride. Thank you to The Guardian for the suggestion.

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