by Washington Quezada
( lu =collective, mbalu = melancholy in the Bantu Africana language)
Lumbalu are the funeral ritual chants used by the community of African descent in San Basilio de Palenque in Northern Colombia.
With this same name, there is also a musical group founded in 1984 by a group of young people interested in their roots. The members of Lumbalú started a field study of traditional music and dances from the Afro-Colombian communities on the coasts of their country. Learning from the masters, they began making their own presentations, and thanks to the support of the people who listened to them, they became a musical group on their own. Already with the name of Lumbalú, they recorded their first album, “Fandango Alegre,” in 1993, and in 1997 the second one called, “Balada de un tambor sobre el mapa del caribe.”
With the desire to broaden their borders and avoid the violence in their country, they moved to Spain where they put down roots, becoming part of Barcelona’s Cultural Mestizo Landscape (Barcelona Postiza). They recorded in 2001 the album, “Me voy con gusto,” where in addition to playing traditional instruments they added electronic instruments, exploring other sounds like funk and reggae.
In 2005 they recorded “Mil Colores” that perhaps we can define with what one of the members said on their Internet web page: “Singing about daily life, expressing feelings, … is perhaps the biggest teaching we could have received from our ancestors; with rhythms and traditional tunes, Lumbalú wants to declare what we feel… We are urban musicians with an urgent necessity to explore within ourselves, using our most earthly roots, the purest ones.”
“Mil Colores” has the sound of tradition; moving away from exploring other sounds, Lumbalu plays what it knows best: Colombian traditional sounds with lyrics that remind us of their experiences in Colombia, their struggle in Barcelona and their dreams of love and a peaceful future.
“Kumatilaye” is one of the few songs that is not written by any of the members of Lumbalú in “Mil Colores.” This song was originally composed by Justo Valdez “Gele Gele,” who is one of the Colombian musicians who during the 80s encouraged the mixture of the African Highlife with Colombian rhythms known as Champeta Criolla.
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Washington Quezada hosts “The Trip” on KZFR radio at 90.1 FM. Catch his show between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. every other Sunday.