A powerful Latin music orchestra with a venom made of 70s NYC Salsa and elements of Jamaican and Colombian music, Funk and hip-hop, Colombia’s La Mambanegra are combining the heat of Bomba Esteréo, the attack of Systema Solar, the swing of Monsieur Periné and the modern roots of Choc Quib Town.
La Mambanegra are here to turn the heat on with their potent sound reinventing salsa to bring you what they call “Colombian Break Salsa”.
Salsa was never meant to be polite. In the hands of La Mambanegra (The Black Mamba) it’s anything but. It may not even be salsa anymore. Doused with funk, hip-hop, raggamuffin and fierce Nuyorican spirit, this machine-drilled 9-piece orchestra from Colombia make salsa as it should have been made all along, with fire, soul, felicidad and a hip-shattering knack for groove.
When salsa first erupted in New York in the 1960s it was the sound of Latin migrants uniting in underground fiestas of dance and music. It was the sound of revolution, a new pan-American sound emerging out of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the US. This is the legacy that La Mambanegra build on. Fifty years of war have dispersed Colombia’s population and in the process Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, has become a magnet for Afro-Colombians seeking refuge from the fighting that is all too real on the country’s Pacific Coast. The humid, sweaty nightclubs of Cali, the Colombian salsa capital, have become havens where the Caribbean, Africa and the Americas collide, creating new revolutions, new identities. This is where La Mambanegra thrive.
Made up of some of Colombia's finest players, the band are the advance guard for the rebirth of Salsa, twisting the genre into the 21st century, their polyrhythmic, horn-heavy and thoroughly modern sound quickly earning them a devoted following across South America and beyond.
Led by the relentless energy of Jacobo Vélez Mesa (once of the equally impressive La Mojarra Electrica), the group combine J.B.’s horns, Fania ferocity and Los Van Van precision with the aggression of Bronx hip-hop and Kingston dancehall. On ‘El Callegüeso y su Mala Maña’ this sound is laid-bare: “Puro Potenkem” is fiery as hell with a killer horn groove; on “Barrio Caliente” we get to hear what Cypress Hill would be like if they let their hair down; “La Fokin Bomba” is tough-as-nails salsa, Velez spitting out vocals between horn breaks and Afro call-and-response backing; then there’s the taut disco salsa of “Me Parece Perfecto” with its chorus of “me parece perfecto” (“[she] looks perfect to me”), swiftly followed by the impudent response of “¡tranquilo!” (“calm down!”). Instantly, we’re transported to Cali’s nightclubs, bodies sashaying across the dance floor, excited glances, another rum getting knocked back at the bar, the band and audience moving together as one.
When Velez says: “Salsa is sweat, sex, liqueur and Pielroja cigarettes, it’s the gasoline that turns my heart on”, you better damn well believe him, for salsa, as well as Africa, are in his veins. His great grandfather was Tomas Rentería, a son of one of the last known African slaves in Colombia. Known as ‘El Callegüeso Antiguo’, Rentería was a musician who left Colombia on a boat set for the ‘Big Apple’ where he dreamed of making it big. His luck seemingly ran out near Havana, when he got thrown overboard and almost drowned. Yet in Cuba he became good friends with famed musician Chano Pozo, who would later give him a magical flute made in Africa which he called the Mambanegra. Eventually, El Callegueso would make his trip to New York, flute in hand, and realise his dream.
Now, La Mambanegra is ready to return in the shape of this potent group, a group that is reinventing salsa - they’ve even taken to calling it ‘break salsa’ - and establishing the band as one of the most exciting new names in Colombian music. Inspired by the story of an anonymous and mythical hero of the Barrio Obrero, a popular neighbourhood of Cali, who had a series of fantastic adventures in Cali, La Habana and New York, this band brings a new concept of Salsa and Latin Music to the world. Combining the heat of Bomba Esteréo, the attack of Systema Solar, the swing of Monsieur Periné and the modern roots of Choc Quib Town, La Mambanegra are here to turn the heat on and bring some joy to the people.
Billboard magazine has highlighted them as one of the five Colombian bands you need to know - no surprise judging by their full-throttle live shows that are overflowing with the absolute commitment of each band member. Following their knock-out performance at WOMAD Charlton Park in 2016, La Mambanegra will return to the UK for a tour in the summer of 2017.
“As funky as James Brown and as hot as the Cali nightclubs that they light up on a regular basis... La Mambanegra are a force of nature and one of the most exciting bands to come out of Colombia for a while.” – Sounds And Colours
“If you go for music loaded with venom, with a spicy and dangerous mix, so push play and replay at this concoction of pure "salsa caliente”.” – VICE
“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.” – Billboard
La Mambanegra is a powerful latin music orchestra. Its venom is made of 70s NYC Salsa and elements of Jamaican and Colombian
music, Funk & Hip Hop.
Inspired by the story of an anonymous and mythical hero of the Barrio Obrero, a popular neighborhood of Cali, who had a series of fantastic adventures in Cali, La Habana and New York, this band brings a new concept of Salsa & Latin Music to the world....more