Colombia is bursting at the seams with music.
At the recent Bogota Music Market (BOmm), which took place Sept. 11 and 12 in Colombia's capital, some 16 acts performed for an audience of nearly 1,000 artists, managers, promoters and buyers from around the world. In the past two years -- since veteran music executive Fernan Martinez took over production – BOmm has evolved from being merely a Colombian music conference to an international market for artists eager to showcase their music beyond Colombia's borders.
All told, more than 730 acts submitted their music for showcase/exhibit consideration. Seven curators (including this writer) evaluated the submissions, and organizers picked 14 to be showcased at the event. While all 14 acts impressed us (and congrats to a great production and impeccable sound), here are five starkly different sounding acts who may find audiences outside Colombia.
1. Martina & La Peligrosa (Martina and the Danger): This little spitfire has dance moves (not to mention abs) that can put Shakira to shame. Martina (sister to another immensely talented artist, Adriana Lucía) performs the traditional rhythms of porro and champeta from Colombia's Caribbean coast blended with rock guitars and drums. While the mix of folk and rock is no longer new, Martina's approach is. An extraordinary onstage demeanor, plus a high, distinctive voice and catchy songs with commercial appeal, make this an act poised for more.
2. Gusi: The former member of vallenato duo Gusi & Beto launches his solo career with a more pop-leaning music proposal. Gusi is signed to Sony Music Colombia -- his label as Gusi & Beto -- and he decidedly has a pro outlook both in music and performance, with solid songs and a solid band, plus a fresh face. Obviously, Vives and Fonseca are firmly entrenched as the leaders in the vallenato/pop movement, but Gusi also has a place.
3. Velo de Oza: This five-man (and one woman) troupe plays a mixture of carranga -- folk music from Colombia's countryside, mostly the state of Boyacá -- married to rock and pop. The sound is unique, in large part thanks to the use of traditional instruments like the guacharaca (a sort of tube scraped by a fork to produce a scratching sound) and a fantastic sense of humor both onstage and in recordings. Fun to watch and hear.
4. FatsO: While I'm not a big fan of Latin acts singing in English from their own countries, FatsO's surly blues/jazz is done well enough to merit a good listen. Anchored by Daniel Restrepo's upright bass and raspy voice, FatsO truly swings and grabs you.
5. Zalama Crew: This hip-hop troupe from Cali, Colombia, digs deep into both urban and folk beats for a unique sound and great groove. The group isn't new; winner of Shock Magazine's new band contest back in 2010, they've recorded with the likes of Sergent Garcia and opened for Manu Chao. Their live show is what truly sets them apart.