Bogota Music Market 2015: 5 Colombian Artists You Need to Know

Intoxicating fusions from Pedrina y Rio, La Mambanegra, Profetas, Nelda Piña y BOA and Elkin Robinson stood out.

1. La Mambanegra:  A mix of hardcore salsa, funk, hip-hop, reggae and ska, this nine-person troupe from the barrios of Cali (Colombia’s salsa capital) is hard-hitting, tight and electrifying live. Achieving a balance between danceable and virtuosity is no simple feat, but bandleader-saxophonist Jacobo Velez pulls it off. To make things more interesting, he's based the band’s persona on a mythical musical hero who’s lived incredible adventures. A visual and sonic treat.

 

2. Profetas: These Colombian hipsters have been at it for nearly a decade, and it shows in their well-defined concept -- folk, world and hip-hop fronted by a male (Pablo Fortaleza) and a female (the gorgeous Antombo) singer/rapper -- and their dynamic show. The male-female pairing evokes Choquibtown, but Profetas is both more hip-hop and more world than their more famous relatives. They're compelling enough to have been invited to Glastonbury this past summer after the festival’s booker heard them during a BoMM showcase last year.

3. Nelda Piña y la BOA (the Bogota Orquesta Afrobeat): This delicious blend of sounds, rhythms and races is a microcosm of Colombia. It includes Piña, a veteran “cantora” (Colombia’s traditional singers of the Atlantic coast), a sidekick singer with killer dance moves and voice, and horns and percussion sections that can play anything while bringing an intoxicating infusion of funk to African beats. The definition of exuberance.

  

4. Pedrina y Rio: This whimsical duo features Pedrina (Edna Arcila) on vocals and Rio (Javier Cerón) on guitar for an alt sound anchored on Pedrina’s piercing, distinctive voice coupled with funky horns, electronica and wah-wah. If any sound truly stands out in this fest with distinct commercial possibilities (visually, the group is extremely compelling), it’s this one. Fine songs led by a singer with a singular sound plus a well-defined on and off stage personality have already netted Pedrina y Rio a local radio hit and nearly 1 million YouTube views on one video.

5. Elkin Robinson: Many people don’t know that Colombia’s territory includes the islands of San Andres and Providencia, where most people speak creole and English. With his smooth island sound and lilting vocals -- all in English -- Robinson brings a fresh perspective and lovely songs to the Caribbean repertoire. His guitar is accompanied by the most traditional of Providencia instruments, including the percussive beat played on a horse’s jaw.