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Afro-Colombian trio ChocQuibTown is honoring urbano’s Black roots

Stephany Jimenez
Amazon Music LAT!N
ChocQuibTown is now based in Miami.

Vocalists Goyo and Tostao finish each other's sentences as naturally as they switch between English and Spanish. That’s because they’re also husband and wife and members of the trio ChocQuibTown, along with Goyo’s brother Slow Mike. Their blend of dancehall, hip-hop, and Afro-Latin jazz is a call and response to the African diaspora.

They’re now based in Miami but are originally from Chocó, a coastal region in Colombia where the majority of the population is descended from enslaved Africans. They said moving to the American capital of Latin music was one of their dreams.

“Now our message is going to be a little bit bigger, you know, because now we got big platforms to speak up,” Tostao said.

ChocQuibTown wants to show Latin music fans that now-mainstream genres, like reggaeton, actually originated as forms of Black resistance—a point they make in a recent episode of the music series Género 101. It summarizes the creation stories of Latin genres, like champeta and salsa, by centering their African roots.

In that episode, they say the drum is the common ancestor of Afro-Latin diasporic music noting, “with the strike of a hand, the skin of the drum screams ‘freedom!’ And it becomes a symbol of rebellion and celebration.”

The Género 101 episode, and the podcast Loud, were produced to educate fans on what’s owed to Black artists in the urbano movement. ChocQuibTown has collaborated with some of these pioneers, including Tego Calderón.

“Just like we value the work of African-American rappers, it’s important for Latin Americans to understand the importance of Tego Calderón, who is one of the only urban artists to talk about what it’s like to be ‘negro y feo’ [‘Black and ugly’] in our society,” Goyo said.

She said she doesn’t think these Black pioneers are given enough recognition because of gaps in music education, but projects like Loud and are trying to change that.

In the first episode of Loud, narrator and reggaeton pionera Ivy Queen reminds urbano fans that one of reggaeton’s first hits — then called reggae en español — was a song against police brutality.

“It was a diss, but a diss that you could dance to,” Ivy Queen says on the podcast.

Some of ChocQuibTown’s most joyful songs like “De Donde Vengo Yo” and “Somos los Prietos” are anthems against inequality and anti-Blackness. But the group rejects the idea that songs with social commentary should be danceable in order to earn commercial success.

“That’s just how we are,” ChocQuibTown said.

Elisa Baena is an associate producer for Sundial.