They’re a 10-piece group of musicians hailing from the Colombian city of Cali. Famous for their rhythmic and sensual live performances that make it impossible to stand still, La Mambanegra are heading to the Chevron Festival Gardens on Saturday 4 March.
We caught up with Jacobo Velez Mesa, lead vocalist and director of La Mambanegra, ahead of his first trip to our shores.
With so many members in the band, is it easy to work together?
Yes of course it is. One of my gifts is being the director of this band. We have schedules and rehearsals, and we all work towards that.
There is a lot of communication, and interaction between the composer and musicians. That is one of the key things.
Describe the music you play:
Our music is nourished by a planet that is called salsa. It expands into salsa from New York, which is a different sound. This planet orbits around other planets and feeds itself off Jamaican music, Cuban music, funk and hip hop.
The nucleaus of that planet that brings everyone together is called Mother Africa. And all of this is cooked, it is created, in a place called Cali in Colombia.
Your band and your music is always described as “sexy”. What do you say to this?
I would change this word to another word: that is sex itself. I would also describe it as someething that has a force, that’s aggressive without invading or hurting anyone. It’s an energy.
What do you love about performing this kind of music? How do you feel when you are on stage?
Before anything, before I go on stage, I go through a ritual. I put on certain clothes and I remember and pray to my great-great-grandfather, who is one of the reasons I do what I do. He is the originator of La Mambanegra that started in the 1940s in New York.
When I go on stage I feel like another person. The character I become is based on a god called Changó. Changó represents a masculine god: he is the mamba, the music, the sexual representation of what I am on stage. In summary what I feel is a lot of strength.
La Mambanegra is famous for the live shows – what can you promise the people of Perth in your upcoming gig at the Chevron Festival Gardens?
The audience cna expect 777,000 tonnes of Latin sounds, the Latin music of love.
Have you ever been to Perth? What is your impression of our country?
No I haven’t had the fortune but that will soon change.
One thing that draws my attention is the Aboriginal peoples. I know they are strong and have an amaing cosmovision of the world, and one thing I would like is to meet an Aboriginal teacher or authority so that I can have an insight into that spirituality.
Tell us about your hometown of Cali:
Cali has a very strong African descent, one of the strongest in all of Latin America.
It is a place in the tropics, so it is very hot during the day. It is a warm place, you can really feel the warmth.
It’s a place where – around 5pm – you start feeling a certain breeze. People start to come out and you see the women.
And in the evening everyone looks for a romance. A romance that started in the 1940s and 1960s, the romance between salsa music and the city of Cali.
In the nightclubs people are sweating, dancing, moving. You hear different instruments. It’s a sexual thing. It is the connection between the music, people and city. Jacobo
If that doesn’t seduce you to jump out of your seat and head to the Chevron Festival Gardens I don’t know what will! La Mambanegra will be performing on Saturday 4 March at 8pm with more information and tickets available here.
La Mambanegra is: Harold Orozco Arias (drums); Juan Carlos Arrechea Mina (congas); Yeferson Carabalí Obando (bass); Daniel Alejandro Gutierrez Morales (piano); Fabio Nelson Lucumí Martinez (trombone); Roger Torres Rivera (trumpet); Carlos Enrique Peralta Sanchez (guitar); Julia Mariana Díaz Santa and Sergio Ramírez Orobio (backing vocals) and Jacobo Velez Mesa (lead vocals).