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Explosión Negra: Advancing the Sound of Afro-Colombian Music

Explosion Negra
The Color Purple 2023

The three members of Explosión Negra combine native Colombian sounds like cumbia and buyerengue with modern elements like hip hop, dancehall, reggae, raggamurfy, etc.

Nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Tropical Fusion Album category in 2016, band members Harry, Jommy and Jahir have known each other for nearly two decades, having met in the early 2000s in Medellin, Colombia. Jommy brings the reggae influence, Harry also had the hip hip and Jahir had more of a melodic bent.

Defining Colombian music

When asked how they define Afro-Colombian music, Jahir thinks it’s a genre that’s open to a lot of exploration and experimentation.

Afro-Colombian band Explosion Negra
Image courtesy Explosión Negra

Colombians “are aware of how much variety” of Afro-Colombian music there is in the country, but it still needs to be explored more, he says, adding: “I see a lot more people accepting it more freely, and thus it’s growing in Colombian music.”

For Harry, Colombia has a great “cultural richness” and a huge variety of music from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast.

“You find in all those corners some rich sounds that haven’t had that international visibility,” he adds. “What we do with our music is incorporate different sounds from different regions of the country, especially Colombian Pacific music which isn’t as well-known. What we do, then, is fuze those traditional sounds with urban sounds and try to give it more of a global feel.”

“We’re always focusing on the different folk rhythms that our country has,” Jommy chimes in.

Adapting to change

In the two decades the three have known each other, they’ve had to adapt to not only technological changes in how music is made but also to the commercial side.

Afro-Colombian band Explosion Negra
Image courtesy Explosión Negra

“Digital platforms have turned into a giant monster where to get any kind of visibility you need to really work hard,” Harry says.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a tremendous effect on the trio, who were touring in the Ivory Coast and were due to travel on to Brazil, then Portugal and the Canary Islands.

“All those gigs fell through because we couldn’t do them,” Harry says. Additionally, they were on the verge of finishing an album, with plans to do a press tour in Colombia but that didn’t happen either.

“For us as artists it was a slow recovery, because the artistic market was one of the slowest to re-open, especially music venues,” he continues. “The recovery’s been slow, but we’re working on it.”

New album

The trio is currently working on a new album that Harry says has “a lot of force and a lot of pump, a lot of roots while keeping the essence of Explosion Negra, but also giving it more evolution and a global feel.”

“We’re convinced that this is our moment,” Jahir says. “We see a future where we’ll be playing our music all over the world.”

To learn more, check out the video below (in Spanish) or go to explosionnegra.com.

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