Music Review: Jende Ri Palenge Afro-Colombian soul connection

Jende Ri Palenge Box setThe Jende Ri Palenge CD DVD set offers a nice package of  traditional music, modern remixes and a DVD that documents the daily lives of the Palenque, the descendants of African slaves who, hundreds of years ago escaped to the coast of Colombia from its interior and preserved the roots and traditions of their African heritage and created an Afro-Latin hybrid culture that spawned a musical tradition that rivals  any other in the African Diaspora in depth and soulful vibrations:

Palenque, the location of the first free slave (or Maroon) community in the Americas, is also a central location for Afro-Colombian culture. With its own unique style of music and language, heavily influenced by its African heritage, it holds a unique position in the world and is today proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


The package is divided into 3 components: a CD featuring traditional songs that do not disappoint in their organic texture but also are rhythmically potent enough to drop in a dj playlist  that will keep a modern dancefloor moving without missing a beat. A few of the tracks I enjoyed on the traditional CD include Nena which hits nicely as an earthy melodic and harmonious chant with a hypnotizing  acoustic backbeat. Malaganero Soy puts you in the mood to dance around a campfire and celebrate and La Mato Donde La Encuentre is another nice upbeat organic party groove. Mi Neno Gabo Riele also caught my ear for placement on the playlist.

The second component is a remix CD that features a variety of DJ’s/Producers putting their spin on the traditional songs. These remixes deliver nicely as well and were much cleaner than I cynically expected, preserving the original nature of the songs nicely while infusing just enough of a backbeat for an extra punch without overwhelming the composition and losing the original soul. Some highlights on this CD include: (again) Nena, a driving tribal rhythm by To Ane E Lo Memo Sexteto which gently lays down mesmerizing background chants invoking the spirit of the Palenque and Santiago Moreno (Aurelian Riviere Remix) a more smoothed out modern production that is nice to chill with on a Saturday afternoon with a frozen drink and a breeze blowing through the balcony. Palenque Un Rincón De África (Kalabrese Remix) by Manuela Torrs is another good look for the dancefloor while  El Mango (Santiago Posada Remix) is another that stays more rooted with a touch enough of the modern injections and a very nice flute component that floats seamlessly over the track.

Finally, the DVD is a nice visual tour of the village in which the Palenque live and gives a distinctive snapshot of their culture. The inspiration for the documentary was the first recording studio being established in the village of the Palenque, a settlement of 3500 people… descendants of the Afro-Colombian slaves. The film chronicles the daily lives of 3 villagers: a street advertiser, an herbalist and a village electrician (who also  plays a role in creating the first Palenque village studio) who are also singers and songwriters with hundreds of songs penned to their credit. The villagers waste no time getting after it recording the tracks on the traditional cd and the essence of the village culture which incorporates singing and rhythm almost as much as breathing and eating gets  represented in a thoroughly authentic, and diverse manner. “There’s meat at Teresa’s” cries the blind Panama  as he walks through the village advertising for the local butcher in one of the early scenes that well captures the natural dynamic of this music in their daily experience.

Overall, I would say that I  definitely recommend this for any amateur (or professional) musicologist or for any afro/latin/world beat dj’s. The music is solid and rich and the dvd  is interesting, fairly engaging and entertaining, especially when considering the fact that it was done on a shoestring budget with limited planning.

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