A Buenos Aires
-based band whose two central voices fall exquisitely on your ears and mix beautifully with their Spanish guitars and hand percussion. Based on folkloric music (instrumentally speaking) their layered melodies and lyrics carry the listener through waves of poignant tenderness and tranquillity. Two highlights from their 2014 eponymous album are “Rie Chinito”, an ethereal ode to Argentina’s vividly depicted landscapes, and “La Complicidad”, a poem illustrating the perfect compatibility of two lovers. Just as irresistible as their virtuoso composing is the quartet’s chemistry, with their uplifting and tender aura having profoundly enraptured music-lovers around the world.
Having been personally blown away by this band at concerts in Buenos Aires and Bogota
, Calle 13 is undoubtedly one of the best live acts in the world. Rather uniquely, Calle 13 straddles a multitude of musical genres, ranging from rap and hip-hop to reggaeton, cumbia and salsa. What makes this group so distinct, though, is their prodigious ability to synthesise these eclectic sounds into their own, multi-layered soundscape (which includes three blistering percussionists, stirring orchestral arrangements and fiery political messages) which they then dispatch live to adoring mass audiences with utter ferocity and intensity. Though known for this adrenaline-pumping style of performance, Calle 13’s most tender composition seems lyrically to be their most strident of all. Performed as part of each show’s emotional crescendo and rich in nationalistic rhetoric, Latinoamerica captures the burgeoning Bolivarian dream of a united and empowered Latin America. It is this enthralling combination of contemptuous, anti-establishment debauchery and anthemic, political poetry that positions this group as Latin America’s most inimitable and enigmatic musical exponent.
Formed in Bogota in 2005 as an electronic project incorporating traditional Andean instrumentation, Bomba Estereo’s sound has since snowballed into far richer, more seductive creations. With the addition of Li Saumet’s emphatic rap delivery and dreamy vocals and the mesmerising cumbia rhythms pounded out by their drummer “Kike”, Bomba Estereo has developed an irresistible style of music (aptly referred to as “electro-tropical”) that, whether revelled in through headphones or at their bombastic shows, caresses its listeners into another realm. Some of their most significant work include their serene ‘El Alma y El Cuerpo’ (Soul and Body) and their blazing call-to-arms ‘Fuego’ (Fire).
With their eloquent and charismatic rap delivery, the exquisite vocal range of Gloria Martinez and their hip-hop and Afro-Colombian rhythms blended together so addictively, Chocquibtown have been catapulted to the zenith of the Latin American music world. Originating from Colombia’s most underprivileged region, El Choco, the trio have proudly placed their fusion of African and Colombian heritage as a central lyrical and sonic theme throughout their songs. Additionally, a Grammy-nominated act and role-models to the many millions of deprived Afro-Colombians, Chocquibtown have journeyed a long way from their humble, rural beginnings.
This member of the list is an honorary Latin American, having been born in Bilbao, Spain. Forced to flee his homeland, however, during a childhood under General Franco’s regime, Manu Chao’s early life was epitomised by political struggle against right-wing fascism, a shared experience with many of his Latin American fans. It has been his ideologically-charged lyrics - calling on greater social compassion and responsibility – that catalysed Chao’s rise from Paris-street-busking obscurity to his current position as a global beacon of leftist hope. Additional ties to the continent include his use of Spanish lyrics and Latin instrumentation, both influences from his years spent writing his album Clandestino in Latin America. Chao’s connection with the continent runs deep: he supports an NGO in Argentina caring for people with mental disabilities and also has ties with the leftist revolutionary Mexican movement “Los Zapatistas”.