Systema Solar (ONErpm)
By Fernando González
Post-modernism might be a cool, interesting artistic choice in wealthy cultures, but in Latin America recycling, repurposing, mixing and matching, and generally ignoring stylistic rules is both a way of life and a necessity.
Systema Solar, a Colombian collective that freely mixes hip-hop, rap, and techno with Afro-Colombian grooves, traditional instruments and Colombia’s own ideas about sound systems, is Latin American ersatz post-modernism at its best – razor sharp, and fun.
Formed in late 2006 for a performance at the opening ceremony of the biennial of contemporary art of Medellin in 2007, the group includes MC John Primera, vocalist Indigo, producer Pellegrino (called the group’s “sonic architect”), DJ Daniboom, VJ Pata de perro (Dogleg) and DJ Corpas. They call their approach “Berbenáutika,” a made-up definition that alludes to two young traditions on the Caribbean coast of Colombia: the pikós, or Colombian sound systems, which also feature singing, rapping and live playing; and the verbenas, or street parties in Cartagena and Barraquilla.
The music is an irresistible mix of traditional rhythms such as the cumbia, porro, bullerengue,fandango,champeta (roughly a modern, Colombian reworking of Congolese soukous) and other modern Afro-Pop styles with hip hop, techno, rap and scratching. Add some live VJ, pointed (and often funny) lyrics, and you have, well, a true, moveable verbena.
From the infectious “Bienvenidos” ( no visa? no money? come dance with us ) and the techno-cumbia “Mi kolombia” (a pointed and funny take on the indignities of getting a visa to travel North), to the brilliant “El Majagual” (featuring the traditional gaita, a sort of folk oboe) and “Quién Es El Patron?” (a darkly ironic commentary on the drug culture), this is party music with smarts, purpose and a sense of humor.
To inventory and analyze all the parts would only miss the point of the whole. Well beyond the talk about modernity, tradition and meaningful messages, a big part of Systema Solar´s appeal is its vitality, energy and sense of fun. With a nod to noted philosopher and funkmaster Bootsy Collins, the message here is simple: Free your ass and your mind will follow.