Colombia's Systema Solar Releases Album LA REVANCHA DEL BURRO
In Colombia, there is no recycling program. Instead, there are the so-called "disposable people," who scavenge everyone else's leftovers looking for anything that can be re-used. In Colombia, soon farmers will be required by law to use genetically modified seeds, which happen to only be provided by large corporations like Monsanto. In Colombia, a genre called champeta emerged when sailors brought vinyl from the Congo and the Caribbean, which got mixed into modern day DJ sound system parties in homage to Colombia's African heritage. In Colombia, a collective called Systema Solar salvage all these stories and jacks them up with space-aged beats, colorful videos and power-to-the-people stands.
"It's important that it's more than just words in a song," says Juan Carlos Pellegrino, Systema Solar's sound architect. "That's why we have an NGO, with projects that come out of our songs. We do eco-housing, recycling, community radio, and alternative schooling."
Systema Solar are different in pretty much every way. They don't play by the usual rules. They're an audio-visual collective, not a band in the usual sense. And the seven-piece doesn't make music in the traditional way, as the future primitivism of their new album La Revancha del Burro (The Donkey's Revenge) shows (release date: October 29, 2013).
"We live in four different cities," explains Pellegrino. "So most things are done over the Internet, which isn't easy in Colombia. It means we don't rehearse regularly and there's a lot of improvisation. We arrive at a show the day before we play so we can play together, then it just happens onstage. There's an element of chaos, something can always go wrong. But every mistake is an opportunity."
Chance. It's what brought them together in the first place. It began with an event in Medellín several years ago. There, powered mostly by Vanessa Gocksch, a Belgian who was making a documentary on Colombian hip-hop, the crew (with backgrounds in tropical, cumbia, techno, champeta, hip hop, rock, and hacking culture) got together. And the magic happened.
With live performance, music, video, and costumes, Systema Solar is a complete, immersive experience, as audiences at SXSW, Glastonbury and Roskilde have experienced. "It's tropical psychedelia," they say. They even have a name for it-Verbenautika-taken from the verbenas, ghetto block parties thrown in little Colombian towns, and nautika, from travelling through that world and beyond. A cosmonautical trip that, through carnival-rave culture, celebrates the power of the Universe.
"We create a moment in time," says Gocksch.
With an innovative approach towards nu-Colombian music, old schoolcumbia samples partnered with techno fierceness, carnivalesque euphoria with streetwise politics and humor, shamanic mannerisms with scratching blaze, their first album, the self-titled Systema Solar, released in 2009, took the band to unrivalled heights within the local scene, becoming a non-stop world touring act ever since.
As a result, it's taken four years for a second album to surface.
In La Revancha del Burro, Systema Solar take a further step in their future primitive sound, taking Colombia's Afrocaribbean legacy to new territories, at times sounding like Barranquilla's Carnival gone EDM. For this album, the band wanted to envision Colombia's musical past as part of its future. The old music is there, in sample or as part of the song structure under the old school Roland 808. And often it's not the obvious cumbia but champeta, the Colombian take on Congolese soukous.