A few years ago, a group like Choc Quib Town wouldn’t have made it to the ranks of Grammy nominees.
Their blend of hip hop, Afro-Colombian folk music, and politically-infused image was just too much for the mainstream world.
Now, with a Latin Grammy win, major tours in their midst, and a Grammy nomination pending, they’ve earned every right to be smug. Yet, the MC trio is still as humble, on track, and passionate as ever.
We spoke to Choc Quib Town about the immense success of their debut album Oro, the Grammys, and African bunde music.
A Latin Grammy win? SXSW? An iTunes Feature? Great global publicity? Here’s the obvious question: how does it feel?!
It feels really great to receive such important recognition. It’s amazing to show everyone our sounds and music made with our hearts. And maybe, our new sounds will refresh ears and give joy to people.
You’ve mentioned that your music culture is treated as totally alien in your country. What do you mean by that? Did you face discrimination in the music industry in the early days of your group?
I wouldn’t call it discrimination within the industry. It was more that some people in the industry didn’t understand what we wanted to do with our music. It was too new for them.
Are things looking up for Choc Quib Town?
More people are following the band. We’re beginning to get major radio airplay and we are doing things like collaborating with artists from other countries which we couldn’t do before. Opportunities are opening up all over the place.
Initially, your music was influenced by politics around you. What specific political situation influenced Oro?
With Oro, it was the conditions of the workers in Colombian mines. That is a subject that hadn’t been talked about, but is certainly something that has been going on for a long time and hasn’t been handled as it should be.
Latin music and Western hip hop have a clear impact on Oro. But African folk influences, like bunde, are subtle to the untrained ear. Can you talk about the traditional African rhythms in your tracks? Did you grow up listening to them?
In terms of Pacific rhythms like bunde, they do have African influence because of the drums used. But they are really Afro-Colombian rhythms deep down. We grew up listening to what was on the radio, music like Michael Jackson, but we also listened to our traditional rhythms. So it was a combination.
When you’re on tour, what do you miss most about home? (types of food, family members, etc…)
We miss the food sometimes, but we try to learn from other cultures and in some way food helps a lot. We also miss our family but fortunately we have amazing technology and we can talk to them and “see them” all the time.
What’s your favorite song to perform as a group and why?
Each of us has a particular song that we like the most, but as a group, it would probably be “Somos Pacifico” or “De Donde Vengo Yo.” It changes depending on the moment, the city, etc.
You do an awful lot of dancing onstage. What do you do to pump yourself up before live shows?
Well we warm up a little bit. But we really just try to get psyched up by being positive and doing some singing backstage.
What’s next for Choc Quib Town?
The challenges continue and we enjoy it very much! A lot is coming up for us like major tours and studio collaborations with other artists. We have a new album in the works and hope you all will dig it.
Photo Credit:Salvatore Salamone