Ghetto Kumbé Credit: Courtesy of Galletas Calientes Records

Few styles of music lift my spirits more than the drum- and marimba-driven chants born along Colombia’s Pacific coast. These ancestral grooves survived the travails of 16th-century colonization to become the musical heritage of the region’s enslaved persons who’d escaped captivity—and to my ears, they distill freedom and joy in every note. The members of Bogotá trio Ghetto Kumbé are internationally recognized musicians who’ve each participated in projects that take the roots beats of Colombia into contemporary realms. Percussionist and vocalist Edgardo Garcés, aka El Guajiro, is also the lead vocalist of hard salsa band La 33 and former singer of trailblazing Columbian fusion band Sidestepper; Juan Carlos Puello, aka Chongo, is a master percussionist who’s also played with Sidestepper and accompanied iconic Colombian diva Toto la Momposina; and Andrés Mercado, aka Doctor Keyta, is a West African percussionist involved in dance companies such as Zarabanda Danza Afro. Ghetto Kumbé’s two EPs, 2015’s Kumbé and 2017’s Soy Selva, give a sense of the group’s mastery at framing classic West African rhythms such as lamban and soli with the bass-laden dance-floor pulse of UK bass—a modern genre in dialogue with those old rhythms’ Afro-Colombian descendants, including cumbia and bullerengue. Their new self-titled debut album lives up to their previous releases: each of its 11 relentlessly captivating tracks is totally irresistible. On “Tambó” the bandmates chant, “Tambó, sacame esta pena, alíviame el dolor” (“Drum, take this suffering out of me, relieve my pain”). I currently have that track on repeat; it’s become my way to find some sunshine during otherwise dark days.   v