Palenke Soultribe isn’t a world music ensemble, but does pull from a world of music to create its hybrid sound.
Co-founders Andres “Popa” Erazo and Juan Diego Borda met when they were playing in bands in their native Colombia. Together, they helped forge a new path in that country’s electronica scene, by blending old with new.
“We are part of this generation of musicians — the first wave of Colombian musicians that were very curious about going back and digging into the past of our music and how that could be combined with modern or contemporary sounds like electronica,” Borda said by phone from Los Angeles, where the band is now based. He came there to study production at UCLA, and reconnected with Erazo in the city in the early 2000s.
They started exploring ways to meld classical and Caribbean music with beats influenced by the European sounds of The Chemical Brothers and on the other side of the Atlantic, the work of classical Colombian singers and writers. The result is a vibrant fusion of Afro-Caribbean, Colombian, hip-hop and electronica sounds that never stop moving.
Deemed “a live electronic production collective,” often featuring invited guests, Palenke Soultribe will bring these lively sounds to NewBo City Market at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 17.
It’s the final concert in Legion Arts’ ninth annual Landfall Festival of World Music, in which 65 musicians from a dozen countries will perform in various venues around Cedar Rapids.
Borda said “a lot of energy” is the best way to describe Soultribe’s shows.
“We are not a vocal or a solo instrument. This band is more like a groove band or jam. We do combine elements of folkloric music but it doesn’t feel like folk music at all. It feels more like club music or indie sounds with touches of recorded stuff,” he said.
By incorporating samplings of traditional instruments and voices, “the melodies sometimes have the influences of Colombia, but it does feel like a modern act.
“We are not the traditional world music festival” band, he said. “We try to attract a younger audience for sure. When you’re sticking to the 100 percent folkloric music, you tend to have one type of people go to your shows. Now we have kids, teenagers, hipsters, Millennials. People of different backgrounds, different ethnic groups all seem to like our sound for some reason, which is good for us. It’s a good vibe.
“It’s difficult for us to sing a sad song,” he said, noting that the band is sometimes criticized for being too energetic.
“But we don’t mind. It’s inspired by the Carnaval, which is euphoria. There is no moment for sadness. Even so, there’s a little moment of darkness in a cartoonish way. This character of the Carnaval is the death, followed by the dancing, so it’s like that type of theatrical darkness, not dark-darkness.”
And when Soultribe musicians are expending all that energy, they’re getting just as much back from their listeners.
“We feel that it’s their show,” Borda said. “When I talk to people, it’s not about us, it’s about you guys. Some people lose themselves — they close their eyes and dance, and sometimes they go frenetic, jumping. Almost all the shows, when conditions permit, people end up onstage with us, dancing. So it’s really a communication between the audience and the band.”
Everyone in the collective, ranging in age from 35 to 40, plays an equal role in concert. Shows are “never around one person,” Borda said. “Physically onstage, we are four or five, working the same line. There is no one that is more important than the other. Each one has a moment, and each one is equally important.”
For all the modern electronic touches, the ensemble also uses traditional instruments to incorporate elements of Colombian and Caribbean percussion sounds. Accordion also is “essential” for live shows, Borda said, adding that it’s played in a “very Colombian” way.
The band’s name also hearkens to history, with a slight variation in spelling. “Palenques” were villages founded by African slaves in the 17th century, who escaped from the Spanish and ran into the jungle to hide. Palenque de San Basilio still exists in northern Colombia.
“They created their own villages, and they could preserve their music, their culture, their language,” Borda said. “They claim these are the first-ever free territories on the whole continent. It’s very interesting for us — this concept of freedom, so we stole that, and also the music they could preserve is very African. All this drumming is inspiration for us. So in a way, it’s conceptional, and also from a holistic approach, we took the name Palenke.”
They changed the spelling to make it easier to pronounce in English. “The ‘k’ is more universal,” Borda said.
The band now travels the world, playing huge festivals in Europe that attract as many as 30,000 people, and they play the smaller city park festivals in the United States in the summer, as well as clubs and small venues in Los Angeles and Colombia.
“We’re an outdoors type of band, to be honest,” Borda said. “We’ve been having great shows in the Midwest in the last year, and the reaction has been very positive. I’m excited to come back.”
WHAT: Landfall Festival presents Palenke Soultribe (Colombia)
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Sept. 17
WHERE: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
ADMISSION: By donation
LANDFALL FESTIVAL OF WORLD MUSIC
The exotic sounds of 65 musicians from a dozen countries will light up the ninth annual Landfall Festival of World Music in Cedar Rapids from Tuesday (9/13) to Sept. 17.
Legion Arts, the non-profit organization that runs CSPS Hall in the NewBo District, started the festival in 2008 partly as a respite for residents and volunteers impacted by the major flood of that summer. It’s evolved into a showcase of international sounds featured at major world music festivals in Chicago and Milwaukee, but in more intimate settings.
This year’s venues include CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE; NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE; Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE; Opus Concert Cafe, 119 Third Ave. SE; Kosek Bandstand, Czech Village. Additional concerts and pop-up events will take place throughout the festival. Admission is by donation at the door, but the festival concludes with a free afternoon of music at NewBo City Market on Sept. 17. Most concerts will last about 70 minutes; the schedule is subject to change.
Femina (Argentina): 6:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Public Library. This trio of Patagonian singer-songwriters showcase diverse, pan-Latin songs. The close harmonies of sisters Sofía Trucco, Clara Trucco and best friend Clara Miglioli play over their combinations of funk, candombe, chacarera, flamenco, rumba, hip-hop and reggae.
Sondorgo (Hungary): 8 p.m., CSPS Hall. This band’s unusual sound is built around the tambura (a small, string instrument reminiscent of the mandolin), along with wind instruments and accordion. Growing up amid a strong Serbian culture in their small town near Budapest, the band members began playing together in high school and became devoted to southern Slavic music traditions, especially those found in Hungary’s Serbian and Croatian settlements bordering the Danube. The group researches, arranges and performs in this little-known Balkan tradition deriving their repertoire from material gathered by Bela Bartok and Tihamer Vujicsics, as well as pieces learned directly from old masters.
Malina Brothers (Czech Republic): 1 p.m., Kosek Bandstand. This offshoot of CSPS favorite Druha Trava, is led by award-winning banjo player Lubos Malina. He is joined by brothers Pavel and Pepa for bluegrass covers of classic country tunes and original songs, creating a fusion of Czech and American traditions.
Lautari (Poland): 6:30 p.m., Opus Concert Cafe. This ethno-jazz chamber folk group, based in Poznan, Poland, adapts and energizes elements of Central and Eastern Europe traditions. They learned their repertoire from village musicians and works of 19th-century folklorist Oskar Kolberg. The band approaches folk music as an essential expression of Poland’s national culture and a fertile ground for avant-garde experimentation and improvisation. Lautari draws its name from the wandering Romainian musicians, or Gypsies, of the mid-1800s.
Fendika (Ethiopia): 6:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Public Library. These musicians and dancers draw deeply from Ethiopia’s azmari music, a tradition developed by itinerant bards. The seven-member group includes two dancers, two singers and instrumentalists who play kebero drums, masenko (a one-stringed bowed fiddle) and krar (a five- or six-stringed lyre). Founder Melaku Belay also is a virtuoso interpreter of eskista, the traditional trance dance known for athletic shoulder movements foreshadowing hip-hop and break dancing.
The Dhol Foundation (India): 8 p.m., CSPS Hall. Based in London but grounded in the Punjab, The Dhol Foundation delivers a wall of sound, blending hot bhangra beats with global rhythms and contemporary dance music.
Malina Brothers (Czech Republic): 6:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Public Library
German Lopez (Canary Islands): 6:30 p.m., Opus Concert Cafe. Hailing from Gran Canaria, a remote territory of Spain, Lopez is a master of the timple, a diminutive, five-stringed instrument intrinsic to the music of the Canary Islands. He will be joined onstage by Spanish guitarist Antonio Toledo.
Adonis Puentes (Cuba): 6 p.m., NewBo City Market. With a rich voice and a tight all-Cuban acoustic band, Puentes is earning a place in the list of great soneros: bandleader/singers whose vocal improvisations are the hallmarks of Cuban son. Layering traditional Cuban rhythms with deep bass lines, jazzy horn arrangements and his melodic guitar, Puentes creates shows that are dance extravaganzas.
Federspiel (Austria): 1 p.m., NewBo City Market. This ensemble features seven young musicians redefining brass-band music by reinterpreting the folk music of Austria and neighboring countries.
Maya Kamaty (Reunion Island): 2:45 p.m., NewBo City Market. Four-time winner of the Music of the Indian Ocean prize, this vocalist blends island blues and halting ternary rhythm music. While her music is grounded in maloya, a music genre of Reunion usually sung in Reunion Creole and accompanied by percussion and a musical bow, she creates her own intimate folk style, blending in French chanson, Indian and African influences.
Palenke Soultribe (Colombia): 4:30 p.m., NewBo City Market. This collective is taking electronic music to new heights by deconstructing Afro-Colombian rhythms and blending them with modern beats, bass lines and synthesized arpeggios.