Interview: Ahnansé – Enter ‘Mestizo’, Where Colombia and the UK’s Music Scenes Meet (May 2021)


What’s it like when fresh Colombian sounds meet their sonic siblings from the UK jazz scene? Enter Mestizo. Rising names in the UK Jazz and Colombian new music scenes have reunited for a one-off streamed show as the collective Mestizo. The performance has undergone a creative reinvention following their first get together in Colombia pre-pandemic. Ten new music commissions have been simultaneously filmed in London and Bogotá for one unique stream going online on Sunday 2nd of May at 8PM (UK & Colombia-time). 

Mestizo has an international local sound that draws on the diaspora roots of the British and Colombian musicians: at one moment filtered through grime, at another via the haunting sound of the gaita. Like their UK counterparts, contemporary Colombian musicians have embraced different musical traditions to create new and refreshing music. Over years, young Colombians from major cities have been creating musical fusions between cumbia and currulao mixed with jazz, hip-hop, salsa, and electronica, and so transformed Afro-diasporic traditional Colombian music.

The Mestizo project has two musical directors: Wayne Francis, aka Ahnansé, of Steam Down in London and Daniel Michel of La BOA and Mambo Negro in Bogotá. Here, Wayne answers a few questions for Rhythm Passport about the new project.

Tell us more about this collective project?

So with Mestizo 2021, following our first meeting in 2019, we’ve taken the collaboration a step further and made collaborative compositions. This was obviously really challenging in the current circumstances. Originally the Colombian musicians were supposed to come over to the UK but it couldn’t happen. So we thought, we’re going to try and do it another way. 

We ended up having two groups, one side in the UK and one side in Bogotá. We had a group of composers in each of those groups creating the music. To start the process we sent across a playlist of music for inspiration because we weren’t with each other in person. And then after that, whatever idea we had, we got feedback from Bogotá and continued the compositions in London and vice versa.

That was our process, which was interesting because we’re so used to working in person. And that change was a really big change for most of the musicians. But I think it was a really good challenge to have.

Did this way of composing using technology inform or change your writing?

Yes it definitely does inform a different way of working. When I’m working more as a writer and composer, it’s very much about your own stream of consciousness. You build up the idea gradually, you don’t have five voices that are working at the same time. So it’s been about translating other people’s information, or their voice, and the sound and influences of Colombia. And then weaving that into your own voice. So it’s more like taking inspiration than a direct collaboration.

Was there anything that happened during this process that you didn’t  expect?

Music for me is always an adventure. The surprise in the process is what a lot of us musicians keep on making the music for. We enjoy that excitement.

For me, with the composition that I contributed to the project, I’ve never learnt so much about cumbia as I did this time. I spent a lot of time listening to it and got to learn about that musical language and culture. And really absorb the feeling of it. It was really enriching to have the time to get into the DNA of the music.

And when you embodied yourself in that sound of cumbia, what new things did you pick up? 

It’s always difficult to describe this in words. There is a particular rhythmic feeling. If you were to listen to some cumbia and then listen to some of the music that we wrote, then you’d hear some of the lilts in the rhythm. And there is also a similarity between the Afro-Colombian music and the Afro-Caribbean music that’s been a big influence in the UK Jazz scene. So there was a synergy in the rhythms already that we could jump off from.

And would you have any recommendations for cumbia for our readers that you’ve really enjoyed discovering?

Cumbia Rebelde by Puerto Candelaria

…and MESTIZO BOGOTÁ playlist by Diana Sanmiguel

You’ve brought together a large number of musicians, there are 21 that feature in the project. Can you tell us how you came to work with them?

I wouldn’t be able to mention everybody by name, but on the Colombian side, apart from the tuba player, we all worked with them in 2019 when we went over there. Our relationship with them was established then.

And they have some really interesting instruments they use such as the Marimba which relates to some of their indigenous regions. So there are a bunch of horn players and guitar and bass. And some amazing vocalists. Even more interesting is the gaita music, which I think is something everybody should check out. It’s a kind of Colombian flute. And they play these instruments in pairs. That was quite a big influence for what they created out there. We don’t have access to anyone that plays that over here in the UK.

From the UK side, the main writers were Theon Cross, his brother Nathaniel Cross and Yelfris Valdes, this amazing Cuban trumpet player. Yelfris has a Latin crossover so he was the perfect one to get involved. And then the rest of the musicians from Steam Down.

And how will the live streaming work for the performance?

Well we’ve actually done it as more of a documentary style. So the musicians get to comment on what it was like as well. So it’s more than just the performance of the songs but the story around the project as well. We’ve pre-recorded the elements, but that’s what makes it more than just a concert or show and makes a really interesting addition.

What exciting stuff is coming next for you guys?

For Steam Down specifically, we have the release of our debut album. The overall concept is that it’s a spiritual retreat and each song is a musical treat for your well-being. We’re going to release each of the tracks one by one so everyone gets to focus on the songs individually. We will release the first song on May 19th.

And in the longer term future, I’m definitely interested in going back to Colombia and just continuing that cross-cultural collaboration and seeing where it goes. For example Nubya Garcia, who wasn’t able to be on the project this time, collaborated with some of the gaita players on her album Source. And I think all of the musicians would be keen to continue that conversation and exchange as we move along.

Content Related To These Artists

Event Review: Love Supreme Jazz Festival (Glynde Place, Lewes; Friday 1st July to Sunday 3rd July 2022)

After a two year hiatus, Love Supreme is back, vibrant as ever. Since its inception in 2013 some have questioned whether a large scale jazz festival would survive, going so far as to label it a risky endeavour. The festival responded, casting its net far and wide to celebrate the…

Artists: CubAfrobeat , Erykah Badu , Franc Moody , Gary Bartz , Gregory Porter , Harold Lopez-Nussa , Jon Cleary , Nubya Garcia , Pedro Segundo , Shabaka Hutchings , Sister Sledge , Sons Of Kemet , TLC

Event Preview: Love Supreme Jazz Festival (Glynde Place, Lewes; Friday 1st July to Sunday 3rd July 2022)

Mud, music and melodies. Festival season is almost upon us again. Here at Rhythm Passport HQ we’ve been digging through the line-ups, and the Love Supreme program has some gems. Held close to Brighton at the beginning of July, expect treats for world music and jazz lovers. With big names…

Artists: Emma-Jean Thackray , Erykah Badu , Ezra Collective , Gregory Porter , Harold Lopez-Nussa , Ife Ogunjobi , Nubya Garcia , Sarathy Korwar , Sister Sledge , Sons Of Kemet , Yessai Karapetian

Visions of Sound – November 2021

Every month, we bring you a collection of the best world music-related videos. That’s our way to give value to too often overlooked, rich and diverse artistic expressions. Listen with your eyes! Watch the full playlist: TweetSharePin0 Shares

Artists: Ana Tijoux , Ben Lamar Gay , Ego Ella May , Emmanuel Jal , Hiatus Kaiyote , Ibeyi , Mamak Khadem , Montparnasse Musique , Muthoni Drummer Queens , Nightmares On Wax , Puerto Candelaria , Sho Madjozi , Small Island Big Song , The Buttshackers , Walaa Sbait

Visions of Sound (September 2021)

Every month, we bring you a collection of the best world music-related videos. That’s our way to give value to too often overlooked, rich and diverse artistic expressions. Listen with your eyes! Watch the full playlist: TweetSharePin0 Shares

Artists: Bomba Estereo , Combo Chimbita , Criolo , Dowdelin , Iamddb , Little Simz , M.anifest , Maia Barouh , Moor Mother , Nihiloxica , Rakoon , Rincon Sapiência , The Specials , Theon Cross , Xenia Rubinos

Daily Discovery: Nubya Garcia – The Message Continues (6 Music Festival 2021)

London-based saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia recently took part to BBC Radio 6 Music 2021 performing, among others, ‘The Message Continues’, part of her latest album Source.   You can watch her set in its entirety visiting the BBC Radio 6 website:   TweetSharePin0 Shares

Artists: Nubya Garcia

Album Review: Nubya Garcia – SOURCE [Concord Jazz; August 2020]

SOURCE is the first long player by tenor saxophonist and one of London’s young jazz luminaries Nubya Garcia. London has been the campus for what has been happening in jazz lately, and the hothouse of Tomorrow’s Warriors and Trinity Laban Conservatoire along with nights like Jazz Re:freshed and Church of…

Artists: Nubya Garcia

Event Review: Boiler Room Festival @ Peckham [London; Wednesday 9th & Thursday 10th October 2019]

Filming performances to be broadcast to viewers at home who can still feel somewhat part of the party is not novel. Boiler Room, the flagship online platform for underground acts to increase their exposure, tapped into a pre-existing appetite amongst the try-before-you-buy internet generation but that doesn’t negate the impact…

Artists: Cykada , D Double E , Greentea Peng , Jammer , Nubya Garcia , Rachael Anson , Reid , Resavoir , Steam Down

Event Review: We Out Here Festival (Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire; Thursday 15th to Sunday 18 August 2019)

An inaugural festival is always going to be packed with risk and suspense, and after the downpour that Friday night experienced, a breath was held in anticipation of Saturday’s events. However, it is with sheer delight I report that the proceedings seemingly went ahead seamlessly. Saturday I have to jump…

Artists: Children Of Zeus , Dele Sosimi , Dwight Trible , Etuk Ubong , Gary Bartz , Gilles Peterson , Kokoroko , Lee Fields & The Expressions , Maisha , Rob , Saul Williams , Shabaka Hutchings , Shirley Tetteh , Sons Of Kemet , Steam Down , The Comet Is Coming , Zara Mcfarlane

London Gig Guide (August 2019)

At times, we are the first to lose track of how many exciting music events happen in London each month, so we have decided to offer you some sort of “public musical service”, meant for all the locals and passers-by, with the aim of suggesting where to listen to some…

Artists: 47SOUL , Chancha Via Circuito , Dead Prez , Imarhan , Jally Kebba Susso , Kampire , Kanda Bongo Man , Kikagaku Moyo , Kokoroko , Madalitso Band , Otim Alpha , Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno , S H I R A N , Sandman Project , Seckou Keita , Songhoy Blues , Steam Down , The Black Seeds , Thundercat

Event Review: Love Supreme Jazz Festival @ Glynde Place (Glynde, Sussex; Friday 5th to Sunday 7th July 2019)

The glorious Love Supreme returned to the prime Sussex pastures of Glynde for its seventh year, and what a return it was. With such a startling array of talent on offer, it was a mighty challenge to stay in one spot for too long for fear of missing out elsewhere….

Artists: Alicia Olatuja , Allysha Joy , Chip Wickham , Dj Khalab , Ezra Collective , Gladys Knight , Gogo Penguin , Jimmy Cliff , Joe Armon-Jones , Lauryn Hill , Mahalia , Nubya Garcia , Sampa The Great , Snarky Puppy , Tank And The Bangas , Tenesha The Wordsmith , The Teskey Brothers , Theon Cross , Yakul

Event Review: Cross The Tracks @ Brockwell Park (London; Sunday 9th June 2019)

Brixton has been known as the cultural home of Caribbean diasporic music since the years of the Windrush, but this one-day festival, held in Brockwell Park, has certainly ear-marked the growing popularity in the nu jazz movements that have infected the London music scene, as well as the growing popularity…

Artists: Chaka Khan , Dawn Penn , Eliza , Lava La Rue , Masego , Mikey Dread , Nubya Garcia , Oscar Jerome

Album Review: Theon Cross – Fyah [Gearbox Records; February 2019]

“People always underestimate the tuba” observes Theon Cross, whose new album Fyah sets out to put this straight with fierce intent. Cross is an alumni of Tomorrow’s Warriors – the free music education programme resident at Southbank Centre, responsible for the health and diversity of the London jazz scene right…

Artists: Theon Cross

London Gig Guide (May 2019)

At times, we are the first to lose track of how many exciting music events happen in London each month, so we have decided to offer you some sort of “public musical service”, meant for all the locals and passers-by, with the aim of suggesting where to listen to some…

Artists: Altın Gün , Baildsa , Balothizer , Coops , Dabda , Danalogue , Dengue Dengue Dengue , Eva Lazarus , Fliptrix , George , History Of Colour , Kevin Haynes , La Dame Blanche , Lankum , Liniker E Os Caramelows , Namlo , Omar Sosa , Omar Souleyman , Onoe Caponoe , Pitch 92 , Pouya Ehsaei , Sarah Tandy , Sarathy Kowar , Tantz , The Budos Band , The Great Malarkey , Wara , Yelfris Valdés , Yeseo , Yilian Cañizares

London Gig Guide (April 2019)

At times, we are the first to lose track of how many exciting music events happen in London each month, so we have decided to offer you some sort of “public musical service”, meant for all the locals and passers-by, with the aim of suggesting where to listen to some…

Artists: Awalé , Brother Culture , Calibro 35 , Gerald Toto , Hailu Mergia , Horseman , K.o.g And The Zongo Brigade , Kokoko! , Koral Society , Krar Collective , Lafawndah , Midori Takada , Oumou Sangare , Prince Fatty , Psychedelia , Que Vola? , Soom T , Steam Down , Terakaft , The Heliocentrics , The West African Blue Project , Yelfris Valdes

Event Review: Love Supreme Festival @ Glynde Place (Glynde, East Sussex; Friday 29th June to Sunday 1st July 2018)

Set in the heart of the Sussex Downs, Love Supreme Festival returned for its 6th year of spreading the gospel of jazz, blues and soul to some 40,000 music lovers. Unless you were the man who told me, bizarrely, that he “doesn’t like virtuosity in music”, you were going to…

Artists: Beat Replacement , Brand New Heavies , Earth Wind & Fire , Elvis Costello , Ezra Collective , Lalah Hathaway , Level 42 , Mavis Staples , MF Robots , Moses Boyd , Nubya Garcia , Steve Winwood , Tony Allen

Event Review: Jam on RYE Festival @ Peckham Rye (London; 29th May 2018)

From the first Jamaican rude-boy sound systems of Duke Reid and Prince Buster to Trojan Records of London 1968, ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub sound system culture has thrived in Britain’s black culture and has defined generations and popular trends. A sunny May Bank Holiday saw hundreds take to Peckham Rye…

Artists: David Rodigan , Horace Andy , Nubiyan Twist , Soothsayers , Theon Cross , Theon Cross and The Fyah

Interview: Yelfris Valdés – The World of Yelfris Valdés (February 2018)

When it comes to Yelfris Valdés and his countless music projects, you can be sure of two things: their quality and ability to surprise you. No matter whether they are more Latin, Afro-Cuban, electronic, traditional, jazz-oriented, or just fundamentally expressing their author – like the upcoming debut EP titled The…

Artists: Yelfris Valdés

Album Review: Various Artists – We Out Here [Brownswood Recordings; February 2018]

Colours rise from dark contours as a London jazz renaissance takes form. Feeling both early and late, We Out Here captures the tones of this evolving shape.  Tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings directs the way, bringing together a collection of his most in-demand friends on the new-jazz scene. Familiar names such…

Artists: Ezra Collective , Joe Armon-Jones , Kokoroko , Moses Boyd , Nubya Garcia , Shabaka Hutchings , Theon Cross , TriForce

Event Review: Manana//Cuba – A Night of Afro-Cuban Collaborations @ Barbican (London, 26th May 2017)

That euphoric swelling an artist feels when they connect with their audience is what rumba musicians describe as ‘Manana’. The purity of this Cuban chemistry was the motivation behind the 2016 Manana//Cuba Festival in Santiago de Cuba, the Manana record label, and subsequently this month’s Barbican gig. Three friends are…

Artists: Ariwo , Dj Tennis , Obbatuké , Plaid , Soundspecies , Yelfris Valdés

Review: AfroCubism Revisited @ Islington Assembly Hall (London, 23rd April 2017)

The concept behind the AfroCubism collaboration is to celebrate and unite some of Mali and Cuba’s hottest musicians and to explore their shared spirit of Afro-Cuban soul. In the Sixties, socialist Mali politics had close links to those of the new communist Cuban government, creating strong ties between the two…

Artists: Afrocubism , Bassekou Kouyate , Hammadi Valdés , Piki Bosh , Seckou Keita , Yelfris Valdés

There are no comments

Add yours