Global Notes: Indigenous sounds get a new beat

August 22, 2012

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Music is a universal language. That's the cliché, but on a planet with thousands of regional languages and musical traditions, it's a universal language with dialects to spare. Wednesday on Global Notes, Jerome and Eight Forty-Eight host Tony Sarabia chart the course of indigenous language and rhythms into modern territory, as pan flute meets Moog and Mapudungun raps rhyme over drum machines.

We start our journey in Benin with Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou:

Describing the cultural influences that go into the music of Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou is impossible without more slashes and hypens than I'm comfortable typing. Afro-beat Art-rock / Soukous-Vodun funk? They aren't actually puppets, but their music is just as fuzzy and appealing.

Next, to the Chaco province of Argentina, with Tonolec:

Embedding northeastern Argentina's traditional Qom dialect with a modern sheen of synths and electro-pop, Tonolec seeks to preserve and reclaim their nation's indigenous musical heritage. Charo Bogarín's vocals feel birdlike and lilting, and her partner in Tonolec, Diego Pérez, adds an almost arboreal texture to the duo's songs.

Staying in South America, Wechekeché Ñi Trawün rap in the Mapudungun language of their Mapuche ancestors.

The mapudungun language of the Mapuche people of south-central Chile is spoken by less than a million Chileans, and rapped by even fewer, though Wechekeché Ñi Trawün (Young People Together) are working to change that. Their lyrics deal with upholding their traditions, both linguistic and cultural, laid down over mixture of hip-hop and reggaeton to ensure their words are heard for years to come.

Finally, we make our way back to the U.S., by way of Colombia, with Palenke Soultribe:

Cumbia itself is a genre of blended influences, from native Columbian traditions to African slave songs and Spanish instruments. Palenka Soultribe is adding electronic music to that list of touchstones, as the LA-based act add big beats to the traditional rhythms of their native Colombia.