Have you heard of Chocquibtown? I recently laid my ears on some of their music, and I’m addicted to the sound of this Afro-Colombian band, mixing hip-hop beats with sounds of salsa, cumbia, and Latino America. But what I love most about them is that within their music, they bring to the stage a community who is often forgotten: Afro-Colombians.
Colombia has a very large population of African descendents, since 200,000 Africans were imported into the Colombia, Ecuador and Panama region over the stretch of the slave trade. Today, Afro-Colombians constitute up to 21% of the country’s population, though these numbers are not exact, as many Afro-Colombians do not choose to identify themselves as such, aware of the discrimination and lack of opportunities that comes with such an identity. But the fact remains that “Colombia is considered to have the third largest Black/African-descent population in the western hemisphere, following Brazil and the USA” (wikipedia article). This Urb piece explains this perfectly in the following quote:
“Of all the disappearing acts that punctuate Colombia’s history—from presidential candidates to drug kingpins, FARC warriors, and cocaine jets—none is more deceptive than that of an entire race. Four-hundred years after Spaniards brought African slaves here to mine for gold, most Colombians would rather forget that one in of five Colombians is black. No black beauty queens, no black Juan Valdéz, no black president here. Hell, even Shakira has straightened her hair.”
In this interview with Cuentame, the group talks a bit about the meaning behind their music.
In this music video called “Oro,” for which the group won a Grammy, they draw attention to the history of colonization and gold extraction in Colombia.
And in this video, Chocquibtown sings about where they come from, the Pacific coast of Colombia, using a play on words to refer to the Pacific coast, and the fact that they are peaceful people.
For more sources and information on the situation of Afro-Colombianos, check out other music groups such as La Etnia and Voodoo Souljahs, or watch the film Uprooted (link), which talks a bit about the ways in which Afro-Colombianos are often the primary victims of the violence and turmoil that is wracking the country.
Check out this awesome organization called Afro Colombia NY (link) which collects news and information about the Afro-Colombian information. They even have a compilation of Afro-Colombian music for your self education, free and available for download here.