Let's talk Latin America

Reinterpreting traditional sounds at Bogotá’s Hermoso Ruido festival

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Music editor Zara Huband attended Bogotá’s Hermoso Ruido, a festival showcasing the newest talent coming out of Latin America’s alternative music scene.

The richness of Latin American music is born out of its cultural diversity and today’s emerging bands are making use of their past to create new and distinctive sounds. Hermoso Ruido is a 3-day festival in Bogotá, which aims to promote alternative bands coming onto the scene from all over Latin America; from avant-garde electronica to rock music. It’s not only a great way to discover new venues but also a perfect introduction to the alternative latino music scene. For the festival to take place in Colombia, a country with such a vibrant and diverse musical heritage, makes perfect sense. With over 40 bands playing at 12 different venues, deciding who to go and see was the biggest challenge, but it made sense to head for the more ‘traditionally’ latino music, music that is harder to come across in the UK. However, ‘traditional’ is a term that can only be applied loosely to these bands who all show a truly unique interpretation of Latin America’s many musical genres.

I spent the first night at the Armando Music Hall, a kind of converted barn with lots of young professionals dressed in all black. In stark contrast with the headliners, psychedelic Afro-Caribbean electronic group Ghetto Kumbé appeared wearing colourful animal masks. Their origins are in the Caribbean coast where African drumming remains an important part of the culture. It is practically impossible not to move to their ‘folktronic’ music that combines traditional drumming with electronic beats. That same night the Swing Original Monks showed their appreciation of folklore but in a different way, exploring their Ecuadorian culture and combining it with their links in Colombia, Europe and the USA. They put as much emphasis on the visual as they did on their music, with dancing and costumes creating a colourful and eclectic performance.

Friday night’s venue was Latino Power. The name fit the line-up perfectly: a mix of big bands with distinctive sounds performing for a more bohemian crowd. Palo e’ Mango are another group inspired by the rhythms of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, who balance their traditional roots with modern sounds. Their melodies are born out of call and response singing in the Bullerengue style, a music and dance based in Colombia’s African roots, built on voices and drums. Following in the night’s African aesthetic was La BOA a.k.a. Bogotá Orquesta Afrobeat. Although Colombia has many different Afro-Colombian genres, Afrobeat isn’t hugely popular in the country. La BOA have brought the genre to Colombia and of course added a latino twist to their sound.

El Pepino is a tiny venue, which feels more like somebody’s basement and was filled to capacity on Saturday night. It hosted Kokodrilo—my favourite new discovery—whose music is both jazzy and rocky creating a nostalgic sound with a sprinkling of salsa and soulful lyrics. La Sonora Mazurén followed with their unique interpretation of Cumbia, inspired by Peru’s psychedelic Chicha music and more traditional Cumbia making a very danceable tropical fusion.


What clearly stands out about the music coming out of Latin America today is how much artists adapt, remix and reuse music from the huge catalogue of Latin American music, but without losing the essence of the styles. Three days of unique latino sounds prove that some of the most original music being created these days is coming out of this diverse continent.

Check out Zara’s ‘Sonidos del Hermoso Ruido’ playlist on Soundcloud: