Diego is a musician and a producer. On one side, he is the coordinator in Colombia of OneRPM, an international music distribution company, and thus supports a number of Colombian musicians, organizing festival performances, recordings and releases, as well as distribution. In addition to his role at OneRPM, which mostly involves digital distribution, Diego is involved in Colombian Ministry of Culture, and creates his own electronic music using sounds and traditional music from across the country. He leads three projects: Armadillo, which offers electronic vallenato (a music style originating from Colombian Caribbean coast), De Juepuchas, an electronic music collective that uses Colombian popular songs and sounds, and La MiniTK Del Miedo, which mixes noise, tropical and rock clichés in a crazy dark blender.
INTERVIEW – may 2016
How did you come to music?
My interest in music started when I was very young. I started in a children’s choir, then I took piano classes, and later I learned to play trumpet and was in a punk band in Bogotá! Later on, I was confronted with technology and I started using it as a major part of my life, to create music. Technology offers new ways to compose, using computers first, but also a whole range of new tools. That’s how I started being a music producer, just with my computer and headphones, exploring the programs and the sounds. Little by little, my work became more sophisticated, improving my technics until I could do what I actually wanted to do; this is more than just music made on a computer. My work today is the result of many years of exploration: my sounds started on a machine, but little by little they came to life.
What is your music to you?
My music today represents ten years of exploration of the electronic world, but at the same time it has been a very personal experience. This has to do with Colombian identity: what does it mean to be Colombian, and also to be from Bogotá? And, how these elements of identity can mix with the electronic universe? This is what I do through my three projects: I explore popular culture, traditional sounds, but also themes like the past or the present, through the spectrum of Colombian identity.
How do audiences receive these explorations?
I am mixing traditions with new trends, one of them being electronic music. One part of the audience accepts it, appreciates it, and makes it theirs, makes it a part of themselves. Another part of the audience prefers traditional music to stay intact, pure. This posture doesn’t allow evolution and mixings. On my side, I believe that culture does evolve, and I believe that culture has to evolve to persist, to exist in today’s world. This idea is very Darwinian! You adapt yourself, or you disappear. Many species disappeared, in the same way many cultures did.
Therefore do you think music as it existed fifty years ago is going to disappear, or do you think these different ways of playing music will coexist?
Totally disappear, never. But whether it will remain a custom, I am not sure. Because the new ways of communication make us consume things that are not ours, and these things add to what makes us ourselves. We have to play with these different elements; our different identities are at war, or rather in a dialog. We have to connect them in a friendly way. That’s why I think traditional music has to face today’s trends: technology, accessibility to cultural goods, new ways of consumption, conveyed messages… If not, yes it may disappear, or it will remain behind a museum window.
How did you get these sounds you are using in your music?
One of the most valuable experiences I’ve had was my work at the Ministry of Culture, which allowed me to travel to many areas of the country, to meet with many musicians, and also to have access to many musical resources that I didn’t know before. I was really working as an investigator. Therefore I found many musical contents, from all Colombian music styles, and I compiled them to create useful resource for creation. In the past, I was using Youtube videos, collections on the Internet, phonograms, whatever sounds… But travelling across the country, I was able to record and find other resources, which extended my creation possibilities with more rhythms and more music.
You are also working in a music distribution organization. What do artists in Colombia lack to launch their carriers?
Colombia is actually going through a good time concerning music. There are many education opportunities, many exchanges in Europe or in the US, there is much original music being created… But at the same time within the country there are many challenges, which prevent musicians to become professionals and to orientate their musical activity to make it sustainable, to make a living from it. OneRPM, or ONE Revolution People’s Music, offers musicians across the country a panel of solutions to help artists develop their activity. We mostly work on distribution, but we also do recordings, artist production, marketing, public relations… All this helps the artist to make his work known.
What is your role in this organization?
I coordinate the Colombian office. OneRPM is a global company with offices in the US, Mexico and Brazil, and this year they decided to open a branch in Colombia, and so I coordinate the operations.
One of the bands you work with is Rancho Aparte. How do you support them?
We helped them finalizing their musical production: they had already recorded, but they were missing sound mixing and mastering. We also distribute and promote their music. It is really a symbiotic relation, a synergy between art professionals. That is the way we like to work: we are a bridge between the artists and the companies of the music industry.
Do you have a message for the world?
If you like my music, feel free to write me! Let’s connect, that’s why these initiatives are made for, like having this interview spontaneously! Let’s continue making music. I believe in music one finds very strong values of union that don’t exist in other fields. That is why there is this energy, which encourages me to create. So we have to continue making music!
Enrico Manute is the singer and leader of the Rancho Aparte Chirimia. The band plays chirimia, a traditional music form from the Choco area, on Colombia’s Northern Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
INTERVIEW – may 2016
How was the band created?
The band was born in Quibdó, in the Choco department, where the founder of the band comes from – some other members come from other places in the department. We met in this musical dialog that there is all the time over there; there are always these interactions and these encounters between musicians. That is how the idea was born to create this band of traditional music and we called it Rancho Aparte.
How did you guys come to music?
Some of us were already musicians, playing string instruments from Quibdó, while others are totally performing in an empiric way! We started by playing in the street. Over there you always have the possibility to encounter music in the street. In every house there is an instrument. You are able to be in contact with music all the time. In Quibdó everyone plays an instrument, sings, dances, or does something. In any way people are in direct contact with music. We all love it and we all want to make it go forward.
Therefore, some of us started totally as amateurs, while others had deeply studied music. But that is how we started and up to now we have been able to continue the tradition.
Is traditional music popular in this area?
The music from the Choco area is the strongest traditional music style in Colombia. It is in no way going to die, but rather there are always new interprets to perform it. The children and the youth are getting more and more interested in playing chirimia, and they make it a popular music style.
In the case of the band, we all used to have jobs aside music; there are former medicine students, lawyers… and we decided to gather to share this impulse given by the traditional music of our home. We cannot say we are saving traditional music, because there is nothing to save really! We are just interpreting these sounds we have grown up with all our lives long.
Tonight you are playing in Bogotá. What are you hoping to achieve by sharing this music here?
Well, we have a strong network, and we’ve had many opportunities to perform in various countries in Europe. So we know how it is to be confronted to an audience that is not used to this music like audiences at home. In the same way, we would like to give all people who are coming to see us tonight the best of ourselves, which is happiness. And we want to share all this love that we brought from our home with the people of Bogotá, and with the people of Medellín who came up here tonight, and of course with the people from the Choco who always follow us, and with people from all over the country!
What is music to you?
For us, the chirimia music represents everything. It represents the greatest challenge we are taking in our lives: we are leaving our jobs to make it our profession. Therefore it represents the hope to bring Choco’s music at a professional level, and to make it known all over the world. Chirimia music is a place where we can rest, and at the same time it is a battlefield where we have to fight all the time to be able to move forward.
How do you envision the future of chirimia?
In the greatest scenario, I envision chirimia performed all over the world, on the biggest musical platforms! I hope it will take advantage of this phenomenon that is happening in the world, crossing all borders, breaking all language barriers, transcending all religions, all political beliefs. I envision chirimia becoming a universal language. I see it as an actor of the big scenario of the world.
Are you playing chirimia in the very traditional way, or are you making it evolve?
Well, I have a lot of respect for chirimia. I don’t like talking about “fusion music”, because really what we want to do is perpetuating the music in its original form. But what we do is interpreting it and integrating our own feeling in it, and this makes it seen as a sort of fusion. What’s happening is that we are taking traditional music to a form conceived so that the entire world appreciates it. To do this we had to research a lot on how we could make it “evolve”, if we can really use this word.
How do audiences receive your music?
The audience got hooked! Children like the modern aspect of it, and adults like the traditional aspect of it. Therefore we are making this connection between the tradition and the new, and we manage to have an audience made of all generations! We are not targeting any group of people. This is a journey through many different situations and attracting all generations together.
Do you have a message for the world?
Be aware that in Quibdó, in the Choco, in Colombia, there is a huge group of musicians who are fighting to continue their tradition and who are really eager for everyone to know it!
PORTFOLIO – A CONCERT OF THE RANCHO APARTE