You’ve got to admire the tenacity of Will ‘Quantic’ Holland. Simply referencing the greats of Latin music in his inventive productions was never going to be enough.
In 2007, Holland exited Britain and relocated to Cali, Colombia, where he opened an old-school analogue studio. He has travelled the length of the country in search of musical treasures, compiling excellent retrospectives that should be in every collection.
Now, Holland has joined forces with co-conspirator Mario Galeano (a Colombian musician and academic who collaborated with Mad Professor via his Frente Cumbiero project), to preside over Ondatrópica, an orchestra made up of seasoned veterans and rising talent.
Cumbia fanatics will be delighted by the presence of legendary figures such as top 1970s bandleader Fruko, sax wizard Michi Sarmiento, and pianist Juancho Vargas, who apparently left his hospital bed to record his contribution. Add a younger crew of beat-boxers, rappers, percussionists and so on, and you get a fantastic sound that mixes cumbia and champeta with hip hop and funk, tinged with occasional reggae leanings.
In addition to its tasteful reinterpretations of classic Colombian styles, one of the best things about this debut is that the sound is so unpolished. Rather than aiming for overblown perfectionism, this pleasingly anarchic project that draws together 42 musicians has kept its grooves loose, the permitted spontaneity keeping the vibe feeling that much more real.
I Ron Man playfully re-casts Black Sabbath as a drunken Cumbia dance bash; Gaita Trópica updates the gaita style; while Libya simply holds chilling instrumental tension. Elsewhere, Ska Fuentes is a horns-driven track that references Jamaica’s Skatalites, and Punkero Sonidero is a dubwise psychedelic romp
Suena has a pleasingly gritty rap from Chilean MC Ana Tijoux, and Rap-Maya has amusing beat-box work from Cartagena’s El Chongo. There’s a smattering of salsa, boogaloo, bomba, charanga and mambo as well, all of which means you can slap this one on at a party and know that your guests will keep boogying down.
This is an adventurous project that has been executed with tasteful verve. Hats off to Galeano, Quantic and Soundway for making it happen.