If I was to ask Anibal Velasquez anything, it would probably be why he was on so many different labels and in so many different bands. The man was the most prolific musician in South America. But this PR text pretty much answers my question. Read this and then go out and buy this record. Strongly recommend album. Available on Amazon.com April 27th.
Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Rio Magdalena, lies the city of Barranquilla. Hailed by its locals as Colombia’s “Puerto de Oro” or Golden Gate Barranquilla has served as a gateway for “Caribbean Tropical Sounds” for almost a century. Home to the countries biggest cultural celebration, El Carnaval, and the birthplace of the radio and recording industry in Colombia, Barranquilla has always been a city deeply rooted in musical traditions. Its port-city status, has allowed its citizens to remain up-to-date with the latest grooves coming out of the Caribbean basin; with scores of LPs arriving from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States; the city soon became a bastion for musicians and vinyl enthusiasts from all over the world.
Nobody embodies more Barranquilla’s rich musical heritage than the master accordionist Anibal Velasquez. Known affectionately by his fans as “El Mago” (the Magician), Anibal has been one of the most prolific musicians of Colombia’s Musica Tropical movement. Anibal Velasquez Hurtado was born on June 3rd 1936 in Barranquilla into a musical family. His father was an accomplished musician but Anibal´s biggest influence was his older brother Juan who first introduced him to the secrets of the accordion. “I knew already how to handle the clarinet, the Guacharaca and other instruments, thats a talent I must have received from my father. In those days music was everywhere – people would come together and dance to cumbia’s and mapale’s…it was all very spontaneous.”
“As you know Barranquilla has always been a musical city, but when I started to play the accordion, the instrument was not very popular, It had not become part of Costeno culture as it was considered a second-class instrument. A bit foreign and awkward, used primarily by campesinos in rural towns off the banks of the Rio Magdalena – but we´ve changed that. One of the turning points was an encounter with Robertico Roman a musician from Cartagena who I´ve met in a record store on a rainy day. We both had a deep love for Cuban Music and he often came to my place where we jammed. Its with Robertico Roman that I founded my first band called
“Vallenatos de Magdalena”. I made my first recording with that band in 1952. Four songs were recorded including a track called La Gallina, which became a huge hit. It really spread the costal sound toward the center* of the country (interior*).
With the death of Robertico In 1955 the band disbanded and Anibal became a session musician for disco Eva in a band called “El Conjunto Colomboy” which was directed by the Costeño Master “Lucho Campillo” till 1960 when Anibal decides to form a new group. Included in the band are his two brothers Juan and his younger brother José who was instrumental in the sound he wanted to achieve. Instead of using the bongos like in the Cuban Guaracha and Rumba, José decided to use the Traditional Colombian caja drum. The leather skin was replaced by an X-rays Film (radiografias Medicas) an innovation which enabled him to generate a much harder and dryer sound then the cuban bongos. But The cuban style I was producing wasent right – some sounds simply didn’t work on the accordion so I decided to create my own Guaracha which is much faster and a lot hotter then the cuban one. We´ve started recording for various record companies – I didn’t like to exclusive to a specific label – so they dubbed me “Anibal Todo Sello” (Anibal all labels)
“thats when I met with Antonio Fuentes who had just started his broadcasting company called Emisoras Fuentes in Cartagena. I really enjoyed working with him because he understood the mind of the musician and gave us lot of creative freedom. Encouraged by his attitude I began by playing different styles adapting regional elements to the accordion. I would play cumbia, merecumbe, Mapalé, Pompo, and corrido and later also began to incorporate Cuban and Puerto Rican elements into my music. It was in many ways the golden area of the Musica Tropical movement. Lucho Bermudez and Estersita Forrero had taken the genre into new heights spreading the warm tropical sound of the coast to Bogota and reaching as far Cuba and the United States. I recall playing in a small venue called “Mi Kioskito” here in Barranquilla. I was playing there every week and all the greats musicians of this country would appear one after the other; Pacho Galan, Rufo Garrido, Pedro Laza , Michi Sarmiento…Costeno music was taking over the country and we were pioneering a new movement, a new identity for Colombia – Amazing times – I began to have an impressive amount of followers…(including some future legends) guys like Alfredo (Gutierrez) and Lisandro (Meza) were greatly influenced by my style and used it to developed their own.”
The interest for Anibal´s innovative sound started growing and recording offers started pourring in. This was Anibal´s most productive period were many records were produced for innumerable costal labels. Discos Fuentes worried by the artist´s dominance who´s sound had started spreading like a wildfire by forming a super group called Los Corraleros de Majagual composed of Lisandro Meza, Alfredo Gutierrez, Ernesto Estrada (aka Fruko), Calixto Ochoa and few other giants.
The rivalry between the two bands came to an abrupt end with the arrival of the drug cartels. By the mid-1960s, music in La Costa began to change drastically. With the onset of the hippie movement in the United States and America’s new found craving for marijuana, Colombia’s Caribbean Coast had become a main trafficking hub. A new economy of drugs had emerged in the coast and with it a style called Vallenato rose to prominence. It’s distinct accordion sound and bleusy appeal made it a favorite among drug lords and Mafiosos alike, eventually becoming the soundtrack for their feverish life-styles. According to Anibal, “for a short period, people found happiness in the new economy of drugs and Vallenato had became the manifestation this new found happiness. This new brand of prosperity was soon followed by a dramatic upsurge in drug-related violence. The Drug Cartels ruled the streets and people did not feel safe. Life changed and so did the music.” The Drug-lords delighted in the accordion and the instrument soon become a trademark in local festivals and public gatherings.
Vallenato was everywhere. “I quickly began to redefine my playing style because I became bored with Vallenato mostly because its lyrical content had become decadent and too closely associated with violence. So while the other bands started playing slower music I became faster, much faster. I began incorporating new sounds and techniques creating a new fast tempo style known as “Guaracha de Anibal Velazquez” which became an incredible success during Carnival here in Barranquilla. Unfortunately due to the violence in this country I decided to packed my luggage and moved to Caracas where I stayed for 18 years (Half of the 300 LPs recorded by Anibal Velasquez were recorded in Venezuela).
We are very proud for the opportunity to bring this sound to you. Many of the tracks presented here have set fire to more then one dance-floor and have become essential during Analog Africa Dj Sets.
Samy Ben Redjeb
Analog Africa – Rare Afro Sounds from the 70s
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