Members: Diego Manrique (Niño Pueblo), Edgar Marún (Dorado Kandua)
Current release: Rizomagic's Voltaje Raizal is out via Disasters By Choice.
Recomendations: Music RadaClan - Por qué la apropiación cultural es un timo; ThoughtCo - Understanding and Avoiding Cultural Appropriation
If you enjoyed this interview with Rizomagic and would like to find out more about the project, visit them on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Soundcloud, and bandcamp.
Can you please tell us a bit about your own sense of identity – and how it motivated you to take an artistic path?
Edgar Marún: From a terrestrial view I conceive that my identity is strongly permeated by the crossbreeding processes and the nature of Colombia. The consciousness and the intention of being a channel of a great spirit, and surrendering to our cosmic and transcendent reality and power of manifestation in dialogue with my tropical - indigenous - African - and European blending context, has been a source of great inspiration.
Diego Manrique: I was born and raised in Bogotá which is the capital of Colombia. Bogotá is a capital where people come from all regions of the country and its identity begins to be that:diversity.
My experience with music starts with rock influences. When I started studying music, the palette of sounds broadened and I became interested in other music such as classical, experimental and traditional music.
In which way do you feel your identity concretely influences your creativity?
Edgar: My parents were both born on the coast of Colombia, I’ve been exposed since I was born to tons of records of tropical Colombian music. When I grew older I became very interested in African music. The teachings and fortune to meet certain indigenous elders of the Amazon, and of the N.A.C has also deeply influenced my sense of purpose with music.
Diego: I have lived all my life in Bogotá, which is a city where all the cultures, races, people of Colombia converge, which is immensely diverse; this convergence occurs because it is thought that in the capital there are better opportunities. That has created a city full of diverse sounds and art.
I feel that this influences me a lot when I make music so I think of identity as diversity.
Art can be an expression or celebration of identity, but it can also be an effort to establish new ones or break free from them. How would you describe your own approach in this regard?
Rizomagic reflects colombian heritage meeting itself with its cosmic, transcendent, infinite and interdependent nature through ourselves
The press release mentions Bogota's new thriving alternative psychedelic scene. What is it like?
We believe Matik Matik (a local venue) is one of the greatest meeting places for the most creative and forward-looking Colombian musicians and a perfect place to present your work.
Some of the projects which I consider having contributed to the development of the sound of the so-called NMC (Nuevas Músicas Colombianas) have been the projects Mucho Indio, Romperayo, Meridian Brothers, Frente Cumbiero, Hombre de Barro, to mention some.
In the West, the view of South American music is often romanticised into folklore. Which forgets that there is a long and incredible tradition of electronic music which spans the entire continent. Can you tell me about your own relationship with electronic music, how you see its history and role in Colombia?
In the 21st century electronic music in Colombia has gained a lot of strength. Fusing elements of cumbia with electronic music seems to be more and more common and that's great because the sound palette is opening up more and more.
We think that the work of projects such as Romperayo, Frente Cumbiero and Meridian Brothers have had a really intelligent approach to electronic music because they've managed to balance the virtues of the machine without overshadowing the virtues of the human. Their live concerts use electronic elements in a way that the feeling of a band and of human feel is present while the sound palettes of the electronic enrich the musicality.
We think the work of English producers such as Richard Blair (Sidestepper) or Quantic have been significant to the scene. Richard Blair said that he found a lot of similarities between the accents of Drum n Bass and Salsa and he started to link all that sound information.
In the 20th century, traditional Colombian music was not well regarded among the local music academy. Fortunately that has been changing little by little and young people have more knowledge about these musical styles. Musicians and bands like Las Alegres Ambulancias, Semblanzas de Rio Guapi, Paito, Etelvina Maldonado or Abelardo Carbonó are beginning to receive the recognition they deserve.
Looking at your own work, it would seem as though taking inspirations from a wide range of sources and giving them a new home is part of the fun. What makes this approach feel so natural and interesting to you?
We believe in music as an instrument of union and as a tool to demolish mind veils. Our local city’s context is fully permeated by crossbreeding. We take this as an inspiration to unite the universe in a song.
We think this music is inspiring for us because of its sincerity and because you can feel it has a rooted and intimate relationship with the land and the territory that permits its existence.
There’s a local saying that whatever doesn’t have roots dies. We like to see music through this perspective.
Tell me about the process behind Voltaje Raizal, please.
The process of composition of Voltaje Raizal start in January 2020. The process of making electronic music in a band for both of us was something new so the first meetings were long talks showing each other bands and music we had done that could be a sonic guide for what we wanted.
In March came the confinement due to the pandemic and the modus operandi changed completely, this change accelerated the creation process. This consisted of exchanging Ableton Live sessions. One of us would start an idea, send it to the other and the other would add or subtract things. That's how the music and the album began to find a form. We had video calls to decide on cover art or who was going to mix and master. It can be said that Voltaje Raizal is made at a distance and in a pandemic era.
After several months locked away, we got together to figure out how we were going to transfer what we did to a live set. The process has flowed very well and we liked it a lot because the music takes another form and manages to take it to another level where improvisation plays a very important role.
A lot of your music draws from traditional elements and then puts a futuristic spin on them. How would you describe your own relationship with tradition?
We have the intention of transcending the limitations of traditional mentality while praising its roots - for instance integrating its heart and emotions and longing and feeling the necessity of a renewal of the paradigm that constructs it.
What happens to traditional music when you process it electronically – does something get lost? Or do you, on the contrary, gain something?
We don't think the music gains or loses anything when processed electronically. It just sounds different.
What it may perhaps do is that this different sound, modern, futuristic or whatever you want to call it, is what makes young people start to get interested in traditional music.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It is necessary to define the idea of "cultural appropriation" because it can sometimes be confused with "cultural exchange". There is cultural exchange when different aspects of two or more cultures are shared as a result of interactions between them creating something totally new. To "appropriate" means to take ownership of something that does not belong to you without giving any credit and profit from it.
It is important to be aware of the fine line you mention. We had long talks on this topic because we consider it is not a minor theme.
We consider that the use of samples is a practice that can be very positive but it can also be the opposite. We are in favor of using samples as long as they are disfigured and processed to such an extent that they are not recognizable and create something totally new. This goes hand in hand with giving the respective credits where those samples come from. Recognizing where the samples come from is an important part of this practice.
When it comes to sampling vs playing something yourself, what are your preferences?
For us, sampling adds a lot to the texture of the sound. Many percussion samples that we use could be recorded, but what interests us is the color, the texture of the sound.
Live it depends. Improvisation is an important thing in a Rizomagic live show, which means that the vocal samples will always be played, but if we want a specific rhythmic pattern for a long time and our hands are busy moving knobs, that's when we throw in sequences of the samples.
Combining elements from different cultures can be an approach towards overcoming political borders as well. Is this something you're interested in?
Yes, music helps to cross political borders. Bob Marley proved it in 1978 by making peace with two Jamaican politicians. Music also makes territories and therefore cultures visible.
For example, in Colombia, the Colombian Pacific has an immense cultural and musical wealth that just a few know about because the armed conflict has overshadowed it for 6 decades. When people know their culture, their territories, their people, it creates awareness, empathy, and makes visible what has happened and is happening socially and culturally.
Music can be a bridge to achieve this awareness and make visible what violence and political differences obscure.