Ondatrópica – Ondatrópica (Soundway Records/July 16 2012)
By Alexandra Sewell
It’s a collaboration to die for; a 12-strong South American musical outfit formed from the respected talents of Fruko, Anibal Velásquez, Michi Sarmiento, Alfredito Linares, Pedro Ramayá Beltran, Markitos Mikolta, and Wilson Viveros. The self-titled double album Ondatrópica is a creative project brought together by Columbian musician and brains behind the popular cumbia band Frente Cumbiero, Mario Galeano and UK producer Will Holland (aka Quantic).
The project is all about embracing that classic tropical Columbian sound while mixing in the diverse, modern sounds from around the world. Ondatrópica is financially supported and developed by the British Council in Columbia and the group will be performing in aid of representing Columbia at the opening ceremony for London 2012 Olympics.
Ondatrópica originated from the British Council’s discovery of the 2009 album Frente Cumbiero meets Mad Professor, of which the Columbian and Latin genres formed an eclectic mix with grass-roots dub. The council then commissioned Galeano and Holland to create a new and innovative sound to add to their growing repertoire. The group have expressed that this project “…is not about nostalgia, but is a reaffirmation of the validity and contemporariness of the concept.”
The mighty 26-track double-discs are a bright and keen sensation of songs. On the first disc, the influences are apparent, with the smooth offering of a more classic Columbian style resonating through each track. What makes it fresh and contemporary is the addition of Spanish rap, ska, an accordian beatbox mash-up, an unexpected use of a well-known riff and roaring instrumentals.
The second disc keeps the same vibe but focuses more on giving listeners an insight into the blend of traditional instruments such as the trombone, guitar, bongos, Spanish drums and the saxophone, along with the accordion. It is also vocally stronger. The stand-out tracks are ‘Shingaling’, being a slightly slower salsa song, and ‘Donde Suena La Bomba’, which has a jazzy curb to it. Both discs combine the production technique of Mario Rincón who is well-known for honing his skills in the 70s.
This energetic and upbeat amalgamation of styles and instruments, along with a stylish nod towards the more prolific musicians from between the 60s and 70s, works well for the summer. It is a perfect example of a successful mass collaborative album. From the moment the first track plays, you are transported into a colourful, iridescent world where you’d be hard pressed not to get up and dance to a tune or two. You can tell this album is well-produced; it’s clear and crisp, consistently full of vigour and every instrument has it’s place, which doesn’t mean to say it’s not full of surprises (as demonstrated in the tongue-in-cheek song on the first disc, ‘I Ron Man’ which is an interesting re-discovery of Black Sabbath’s legendary track).
The fact that the entire album is in Spanish is also not so much of a detractor for the UK listener as it is a fundamental aspect into the background of the music. Sort of like a Columbian music history lesson which has been adapted for modern neophytes. On the whole, this fun album is well-worth a listen and if you can get yourself down to see them Olympic opening ceremony, it will be worth the ticket price. Ondatrópica is available to buy or download from July 16.