Anibal Velasquez y su Conjunto

Anibal Velasquez y su Conjunto

 Barranquilla, Atlántico, COL
BandWorld

Colombian master accordionist Anibal ‘The Magician’ Velasquez (1936) is the living legend of música tropical. An exhilarating and highly contagious brew of cumbia, guaracha, mambo, guarija, porro, rumba,calypso and Barranquilla carnival music. And at the age of 75 Anibal Velasquez is still going strong, still playing like a devil.

Biography

Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Rio Magdalena lies the city of Barranquilla. Hailed by its locals as Colombia’s “Puerto de Oro” or Golden Gate, Barranquilla has served as a gateway for “Caribbean Tropical Sounds” for almost a century. Home to the country’s biggest cultural celebration, El Carnaval, and the birthplace of the radio and recording industry of Colombia, Barranquilla has always been a city deeply rooted in musical traditions. Its port-city status has allowed its citizens to remain up-to-date with the latest grooves coming out of the Caribbean basin; with scores of LPs arriving from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States, the city soon became a bastion for musicians and vinyl enthusiasts from all over the world. Nobody embodies Barranquilla’s rich musical heritage more than master accordionist Anibal Velasquez. Known affectionately by his fans as “El Mago” (the Magician), Anibal has been one of the most prolific musicians of Colombia’s Música Tropical movement.

"As you know, Barranquilla has always been a musical city, but when I started to play the accordion, the instrument was not very popular, It had not become part of Costeño culture as it was considered a second-class instrument. By 1960, together with his elder brother Juan and younger brother José, Anibal decided to form a group. This new formation would prove to be his best decision. His brother José would soon become his right hand, enabling Anibal to add a new dimension to his style of playing. José began experimenting, incorporating new instruments, and re-inventing old rhythms. He would break the rules: replace traditional bongos used in Cuban Guaracha and Rumba with a traditional Colombian drum called “La Caja.” This uncanny drum – made from X-ray film “radiografias medicas” – combined with Anibal’s powerful accordion was to become a sensation, generating a much harder and dryer sound than the traditional leather skin drums.

Anibal’s new guaracha style was infectious; it was fast and furious, often leading his crowd into a state of frenzy. The interest for Anibal´s new innovative sound started growing and recording offers started to pour in. Anibal entered his most product period. “That is when I met with Antonio Fuentes, who had just started his broadcasting company called Emisora Fuentes in Cartagena. I really enjoyed working with Fuentes because he understood the mind of the musician and gave us lot of creative freedom. Encouraged by his attitude I began by playing different styles, adapting regional elements to the accordion. I would play cumbia, merecumbe, Mapalé, Pompo, and corrido and later also began to incorporate Cuban and Puerto Rican elements into my music." Anibal began to have an impressive amount of followers, drawing huge crowds wherever he went. Anibals guaracha sound was spreading like wildfire.

By the 1970s, the level of violence in the Colombian coast had grown to unprecedented heights and Vallenato had become king. Fed up with the current state of affairs Anibal decided to pack his bags and move to Caracas, Venezuela, where he remained for 18 years until finally returning back to his beloved Barranquilla in the late 80s.“Caracas was extremely good for me. I was able to focus on music and forget the madness of the coast. I made a lot of music in Venezuela, recording over 150 LPs." It is said that Anibal Velasquez recorded 300 LPs throughout his remarkable career.

Anibal’s contribution to Colombia’s Música Tropical Movement cannot be forgotten. His ability to play music that was joyful and percussive, with lyrics right out of everyday life, while at the same time championing new sound, has made him into one of the few living legends of Colombia’s glorious musical past.