As anyone who has followed this blog for any period of time will know.. I love Colombia.. and I particularly love the punk scene in Colombia. The Colombian punk scene is probably the most robust of anywhere in the world.
Now I haven’t made it to Southeast Asia and I hear Indonesia is one hell of a punk paradise, but until I get there (hopefully in 2014), I’m going to go out on a limb and say Colombia’s punks are one of the top 5 most hardcore, loyal bunch in the world. They certainly put the scene in the U.S. to shame.
Well now, Colombia punks are finally going to get some well deserved attention and recognition. This weekend Nov. 2nd & 3rd, will be the debut of “Raw Travel” episode 105 – Bogota, Medellin & Cartagenaand tucked into the middle of the Medellin section will be our buddies from Medellin, Los Suziox, who just so happen to also perform the Raw Travelopening theme (an instrumental piece from their song “Armas Silenciosas”).
Now the punks haven’t been so supportive to “Raw Travel” so far… and I get it. Punks don’t owe me a thing and the shows thus far have just touched on the punk movement with DMTR from Ecuador and Anti-Everything from Trinidad… but now that all changes. We’re focusing on the scene itself and I hope my punk amigos will respond, support and let their U.S. friends know about the show.
Colombia is a Raw Traveler’s haven and no one and I mean no one, not even my idol Anthony Bourdaine has done this country justice when covering it from a traveler’s perspective. Well, I’m not sure if we do or not… it was after all our very, very 1st episode and my very, very 1st time on camera as a host. So there are definitely some things I’d love to do over if I could.
But in the end… we tried sincerely to communicate our feelings for Colombia. A land I consider my second home… not just for the natural beauty and no, not even for the robust and powerful punk scene… but for all the very, very friendly and hospitable people who were nothing but kind to me during my 10-11 months or so when I lived there and every trip before and after.
Colombians have every right to be proud of their country… and yes, they still have plenty of problems with violence, drug running, inequality, corruption and injustice.. but that is where the punk scene comes in.
Though most punks in Colombia seem content to just have a good time… there are those who believe very much in the potential their country is now starting to taste… and many like our good buddies “Los Suxioz” consider it their responsibility to sing powerful lyrics about it.
I hope travel can help, and I hope in some small way, our episode this weekend (and the following weekend when we travel through rural Colombia) can help.
And you my friend, my dear loyal readers can help if you will… please view and share the video below anywhere and whenever you can. From the bottom of my independent producer’s heart… I sincerely thank you. Mil Gracias Amigos!
Missed the Raw Travel TV Hootenanny & Launch party in NYC a couple weeks back? No worries, we got you.
DJ Boxxy Brown provided a great mix of punk, rock, rockabilly, ska, world music and even country with Johnny Cash well represented. Listen to some cool mixes from artists we’ve come in contact with while putting together the show including Normandie Blue (Mexico City), Los Tiros (Guatemala), Dorados Rockabilly Trio (Colombia), Los Suziox(Colombia), DMTR (Ecuador) and many more.
Some folks will argue that Punk music has no business being promoted, it should be so anti-commerce or capitalistic that people should just stumble upon the music and listen for free, while the artists, gets nothing in return but love and admiration. Others will note that the artists can’t feed him or her self on this love and admiration and the artists should be making music with the sole purpose of making as much money as possible.
I fall somewhere in between. Artists should be able to make a living if they can but music is at its best when a higher purpose other than to make a buck is at heart.
It’s a philosophical discussion I prefer to have over a couple of beers. So in the meantime, we’ve cranked out a few more :30 promos to air inside of Raw Travel which launches this fall as the first punk inspired travel show. An independent travel show, independently financed and produced with mostly blood, sweat and tears…. and oh yeah, good old fashioned greenbacks. Nothing is free my friends. sad, but so very true.
I don’t think it gets any more punk rock than this, but then again, who am I to say ? I’m so sleep deprived, tired and stressed out, I don’t really care what anyone thinks anymore. Here are some promos.
Enjoy or don’t… but know this.. more are on the way.
One of my favorite songs, “Perfeccion” from one of my favorite bands, Los Suziox. Check out their recent performance on what I assume was live Colombian TV below. If you dig the song it’s available for 99 cents at iTunes HERE.
I don’t like plugging random punk shows and events too often because there are so many and our readers are from so many different locations it isn’t useful to everyone. But considering such a large % of our readers are from Colombia and Latin America I thought it might interest people to know about this big festival coming up in Medellin. It’s also a good chance to hear our good buddies from Punk Outlaw Records,“Los Suziox”and other excellent local punk bands.
And in case you missed the article we put out on the Colombian Punk scene in Remezcla magazine, you can check it out HERE.
or I’ve posted the “un-edited” raw version just for you, our loyal readers. Enjoy!
LIKE A GOOD PUNK SONG, IT BEGINS WITH INJUSTICE
I remember it clearly, or as clearly as anyone of us can remember anything. I was at an outdoor café in Parque Lleras in the upscale neighborhood of Poblado in Medellin, Colombia. This was my first visit to Medellin and I had been there just long enough to realize how ridiculous of my irrational fears of being kidnapped or killed in a drug war shootout were.
Lleras was an appropriate spot for a semi-nervous turista to grab some food and people watch. It felt “muy tranquilo”. Most people looked as if they were lifted out of a scene from a hot nightclub in Miami or Los Angeles. The girls were dressed sexy and the guys were sizing them up unabashedly while drinking beer or shooting aguardiente, a Colombian liqueur sometimes called firewater.
Suddenly, I saw something I’d never seen in my travels to Latin America heretofore, a trio of hardcore looking young punks, two guys and a girl, walking around plying their handmade leather wristbands and jewelry to the visitors and upscale denizens of Medellin.
I don’t remember specifically what they were wearing but there was no doubt they were punks. They were of the mohawk wearing, tattooed and pierced variety, the kind you might see at an Exploited or Casualties show moshing it up and stagediving, not posers.
“There are punks in Latin America?” the naïve nature of my first thoughts would later be cause for much amusement. I would find that “por supuesto” (of course) there were indeed many punks in Latin America with a rich history at that.
WHERE AM I & HOW DID I GET HERE?
At this point in my life, I was a fairly new observer of the punk lifestyle not realizing that even though I was not of the Mohawk, tattooed, pierced variety, I can now confidently state that I was pure punk. Though always slightly rebellious and suspicious of authority, even in my native Tennessee, my theory is that I’ve been a punk since birth, but that my “punkness” had lain dormant. I was a punk and didn’t realize it until I’d lived in New York City for a few years and against some pretty heavy odds, tried my hand at becoming an entrepreneur and changing a small but ugly part of the media business.
“A punk-rock businessman?” you ask. Yes. They, like Colombian punks, also exist. At the time when I began my entrepreneurial pursuit of producing English language TV for young, American born Latinos, it seemed it was me (a white farm boy), my friends (almost all Latino) and our cause (representing Latinos in mainstream media) against a largely ignorant and biased media world run by large corporations and their just as hefty corporate sponsors.
At the beginning, my small, bootstrapped and grossly underfunded company was often on the verge of extinction but we found strength in our commitment to fight the status quo of corporate media giants and their sometimes willful ignorance. In my eyes at the time, they represented an intellectually lazy culture that was largely intent on keeping things the same. We represented a new, open minded culture that demanded change.
Money didn’t motivate me, (I viewed it more as a tool to stay alive and fight the good fight), as much as the cause, which felt more and more like the right thing as many people first ignored us, then laughed at us and finally attacked us ( the 3 stages of success).
It was at this time in my life when I mistakenly thought I would fail but had pledged I was going to go down swinging, blacking a few eyes along the way, that I also mistakenly bought Social Distortion’s “White Light, White Heat, White Trash” CD. This happy accident was a bridge to a genre and lifestyle that would take me on a journey to points the world over and would forever change my life.
At this point of the Colombian punk sighting, I was not an entirely seasoned, independent traveler just yet either. Most of my travels had thus far consisted of staying in chain hotels confined to the safety of tourist zones in places like the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica. I had a lot to learn about both the punk lifestyle and independent travel.
MY ACCIDENTAL JOURNEY
Watching these punked out Colombian teens, my curiosity was peaked. I wanted to speak to these guys and even though my Spanish was rudimentary, I wanted more information. Information like; “How did they become punks?”, “Was there a big scene in Colombia?”, “What bands influenced them most?”, etc.
I followed at a distance trying to catch up. The sight of a running gringo is rarely a sign of anything good in these parts, so I briskly walked to the corner of the main road where a bus was making its stop.
Bus routes or collectivos in Colombia and most of Latin America are run by private drivers and though they are subject to some government oversight, it feels a bit like the wild West at times. Each bus is often “hooked up” with chrome trimmings while brightly painted designs and nicknames on the front or side reflect the personality of the driver and even its destination.
The rides can sometimes be rough. Years later, when I actually lived in Colombia for a few months, I regularly took the bus and once witnessed a lady literally getting bounced out of her shoes. Had we not grabbed her she may have bounced right out of the open, back door of the bus!
Now this is the part I have replayed in my head many times since. As the punks attempted to gain entry, the bus driver, who looked like a decent guy but had the posture of a hardworking man who’s run this route 6 days a week, 12-15 hours a day for a while, shook his head vehemently “no”, refusing to open his doors and drove away trailing a smelly, cloudy diesel exhaust to a chorus of “puta madres” and “hijo de puta” protestations from the trio of young punks.
After witnessing this discouraging scene, alas, I lost my nerve to approach the now irritated punks. I had wandered off tourists’ reservation and felt the sudden need to head back to familiar territory.
But that incident with the punks and the bus in Medellin was firmly tattooed on my brain and inspired me to bring my video camera on what would become many subsequent trips. I would attempt to document the punk scene not only in Colombia but all of Latin America and even the world! I now had a host of other questions like “Are punks regularly discriminated against?”; “Do police harass them?”; “What do their families think?” “What’s it like being a punk in the developing world” etc.
Since that incident, my travels have taken me on several journeys throughout Latin America including Guatemala, Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and even Cuba with plans to hit the meccas of Mexico and Brazil. I’ve also traveled to Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia. My goal is to visit every continent, even Antarctica. .
So far I’ve conducted scores of interviews and watched dozens of punk bands perform. I’ve posted some of them on my video blog PunkOutlawBlog.com which also serves as a rough outline for the bigger project, a documentary film entitled “Punktology” with the ever-evolving tagline “The Power of a Punk Planet”. I began a digital record label called Punk Outlaw Records to bring some of this punk and underground music to audiences in North America and Europe.
So much has been documented about punk from the U.S. and U.K. perspective, but what of the rest of the world? I also attempt to cover not just punk but other related, underground genres like Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Ska, Reggae, etc. in an attempt to find out what makes the scenes tick and tied together.
These bands and scenes aren’t merely extensions of the U.S or U.K, but separate and divergent with their own uniqueness set in a larger global ecosystem that while unorganized somehow has a natural order, almost like a collective consciousness in a punk parallel universe.
It’s the same but different at the same time. Same enough to have this love of punk in common yet diverse enough with their own cultural idiosyncrasies to prove interesting.
That punk/bus incident in Colombia inspired me to look further and see what stories had been left untold about the music I love from the rest of our planet.
COLOMBIA – A PUNK SORPRESA
I like surprises, like the Social Distortion CD or punks in Colombia where I had done no prior research and had no idea what to make of it. Maybe that’s why years later even after all these other travels, I still find myself fascinated by the depth and passion of the punk movement in Colombia.
From Bogota’s rough and tumble scene (which often may feature an element of danger or a riot ending with the police firing tear gas) to the “usually” more peaceful but equally fuerte scenes in Medellin and surrounding coffee country lands of Manizales, Armenia and Pereira to the coastal areas of Cali & Cartagena and even the Amazon. Colombia’s punk scene is as diverse as the country itself.
BOGOTA FOR THE BRAVE – ROCKIN ROLOS!
Many start their journey to Colombia in the big, bustling, high altitude capital of Bogota. If you hit a punk show here it’s probably going to start off calm enough but stick around and it’s almost guaranteed to get crazy. At a Casualties show I covered in 2009 the police had a showdown complete with tanks and teargas with the punks in the street who were partying outside the venue. Thankfully the concert inside went on and was an utter blast.
Then of course, there is Rock Al Parque, a huge free outdoor music festival organized by the government that last for days, garners hundreds of thousands of attendees and features acts from all over the world. It showcases diverse styles of music including Rock, Metal, Reggae, Ska, World and some Punk.
While Punk is somewhat represented at Rock Al Parque, the selection process to play has become politicized and rife with controversy, so much so that many punk bands say “f*&k it” and play instead at simultaneous, smaller underground shows. .
In 2010 while covering Rock Al Parque, I left my press credentials behind and attended one such event and for a brief moment thought I might not make it out with my life, much less my camera. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there had been a stabbing outside. The police arrived and too many people rushed inside, resulting in serious overcrowding for a venue with only one rear entrance serving as the exit. I was thinking “fire trap” and unable to get the tragic “Great White” concert in Rhode Island out of my head. I found myself in the midst of some very drunk & rowdy punks and unable to navigate to the lone exit.
When I finally did make it out of the too small venue, it was around 2 AM and the big crowd outside had completely disappeared. It was just me, in a lonely and decidedly non-touristy part of Bogota toting around a fairly expensive camera with a few desperate souls lurking in the shadows. I never felt more like a target in my life. Eventually, I made it home safely with incredible footage but unclear if I’d truly been lucky or just another jittery Gringo.
If Psychobilly is your thing, well there is an emerging Psychobilly scene with bands Los Chiclosos Desmembrados and Salidos de la Cripta doing their part, but it’s clear that for most underground Rolos (nickname for Bogotanos), Punk rules.
MEDELLIN IS A MECCA – PUNK PAISAS
Maybe it was my emotional connection with the trio trying to catch that bus, but I think it goes deeper than that, whatever the reason I was immediately drawn to the punk scene in Medellin.
On subsequent trips, hanging out in Parque Poblado (a working class alternative to the nearby and higher priced Parque Lleras), I was able to get to know punks in Medellin first hand. I discovered, through interviews and web sites like ColombianPunk.comand Punk-Medallothat Medellin was a mecca and had been since the 1980s & 90s when the FARC, Narco Trafficos and Colombian government were in a bloody war that ripped the country apart. Each had demanded that punks take their side. Most didn’t and as such were targets from all sides. In the U.S. it was cool to wear a mohawk, in Colombia, it could be deadly.
Maybe it is the fact that the Paisas (a nickname for Medellin’s residents) survived such a devastating war (this was after all Pablo Escobar’s home turf) but you’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier, more hospitable bunch than the Paisa Punks of Medellin. More notably, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the depth of punk musicianship that I’ve encountered in Medellin anywhere in the world, including modern day Los Angeles or New York City.
In Medellin you have famous, legendary veterans like I.R.A., a co-ed trio of punks who over their nearly 30 year career are still putting out music and toured the U.S. and even CBGBs in 2004.
Then there are I.R.A.’s hardcore peers, Fertil Miseria fronted by Viki, her tatted bald head instantly recognizable to fans throughout the country. Viki, with the rest of her band mates and other friends in the tightknit scene, also run “Rock N Roll Tienda”, a store where you can get hooked up with punk & metal gear, patches and pins.
Bands like Los Sornos (garage punk) and Neus (industrial punk), Estoy Puto, GP, Desaptadoz, Disastre Capital, Infeccion Sikosis, Lokekeda and many, many more have been performing excellent punk music in Medellin and surrounding areas for years now. International acts like the Casualties, the Addicts and Konflict roll through town on a semi regular basis. And while psychobilly is more of a Bogota thing there is an emerging rockabilly scene with the excellent Dorados Rockabilly Trio spreading their rockabilly rhythm with shows at tattoo conventions, motorcycle shops, etc.
But perhaps the headquarters for punk music in Colombia is Medellin’s northernmost neighborhood of Bello, a rough and tumble barrio 45 minutes away by car from the more comfy confines of Poblado. Bello is where the leader of Los Suziox (The Dirty Ones), Andres Ocampo lives, works and produces at his DIY recording studio and where on the streets of this decidedly working class barrio, he is a bona-fide celebrity.
In Bello punk almost feels main stream. It is just part of the culture and no one waves the Bello moniker more proudly than Los Suziox who have performed their infectious melodic punk for thousands of frenetic fans all over Colombia but strangely never at Rock Al Parque.
Why is punk so big in Colombia? David & Monica from I.R.A. say that it is because of the suffering Colombians have experienced over the years and that punk music’s popularity comes from “the hearts of the youth who are living with unemployment, violence and intolerance” on a daily basis.
In my travels, I have to agree. Misery is great fodder for a punk scene, but it doesn’t really explain the full story. Places like Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Ecuador have also seen their share of misery yet have comparatively smaller scenes. Indeed the misery index is high in many places where the punk scene is a fraction of the size and depth of Colombia throughout Latin America (in Argentina punk was outlawed during the military dictatorship, Peru was ripped apart by terrorism and war in the 1980s as well and don’t get me started about Cuba).
But Andres of Los Suziox, who doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects like global politics in his lyrics, says that Colombia’s casual, good time culture also has a lot to do with it, matching up favorably with Punks DIY and democratic method of delivering a diverse message. Andres states that “Every punk in Medellin has a band. Even if two drunks are in a park strumming a guitar, they can be a (punk) band. This is real music, music from the gut. There are no rules. You don’t have to be a virtuoso. You don’t have to be pretty, look at me!”
Colombia has been known for many things; a brutal war that once made inter country travel almost impossible, thuggish drug cartels, government corruption, and crippling poverty in a capitalistic economic system that still too often leaves the weak to simply fend for themselves.
It’s also known for incredibly diverse ecology, cultures and geography, delicious food, cheap beer an emerging middle class and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Oh and one more thing, now it can be known as a place with some of the best punk music you’ve ever heard.
I can hear the Colombian tourism bureau’s new tagline now “Colombia… the only risk is that you’ll get a mohawk”.
The long awaited article on Colombian punk is out at Remezcla. You can check it HERE.Yes, it’s little long but highly entertaining if I say so myself (self depreciating laugh inserted here).
What’s that you say? You are more of a visual person? Yes, I know, all those words can be headache inducing.
So for all you who’d rather see a moving image or most likely, cause I know you are a smart bunch (except for the occasional idiots who post and we hopefully have run off.. which I have a theory is just one idiot posting under different names from time to time) and are probably dying for MORE INFORMATION after reading the article from beginning to end 2 or 3 times, then I’ve included a couple of the videos referenced in the article below.
Also, some pretty cool Colombian punk photos beyond the extensive collection that we have on our FLIKR PAGE can be found at our buddy’s Facebook page HERE.
Enjoy your Colombian punk experience Parceros (thta’s Medellin speak for “friends”)… Oh and feel free to comment at Remzcla and tell them how great, smart and funny we are. Or if you are one of the aforementioned idiots (reinsert self depreciating laugh again… wait for it……. ok here), then go ahead, tell them the opposite. Dammit Fidel, that pesky freedom of expression stuff keeps tripping us up!
I’m back in the U.S. of A. now, memories of Colombia still fresh on my mind. I was all over the place, Popayan, Cali, Medellin and Bogota, in just 11 days. As posted here earlier, we were able to cobble together a video shoot of the Medellin’s rockabilly band “Dorados Rockabilly Trio”for their song “Diamond Girl” which we hope to edit and debut for you guys sometime this fall.
But I also was able to sit in with my punk rock buddies “Los Suziox” (The Dirty), who’ve been rocking the entire country of Colombia since 1996. Los Suziox is somewhat of an open secret, playing to huge crowds in Colombia but never having toured outside of there. Hopefully that will change someday as more and more people in North America, Europe and even Australia get turned on to their melodic and politically charged songs. I know I’ve been getting emails from new fans from all over the world ever since we premiered their really excellent CD “El Fin Justifica Los Medios”(The End Justifies the Means) a couple years back and made it available on iTunes & Amazon Music.
Here are a few photos from that rehearsal which features one of those fans, Rocky, who happened to be visiting from Hungary at the time I was there (he’s the other gringo, with the Los Suziox guitarist in a headlock in the group photo) and who also happens to be in a punk band called Lecsa Punk in Hungary. Why didn’t I cover them when I was visiting Hungary you ask? Nothing gets by you loyal reader, but Rocky was in Colombia when I was in Hungary? Dig? (I’m talking jive from the 70s these days, must be all this travel exposing me to cheezy 70s and 80s music)
A special treat for our readers; a very rare performance of their song “Miseria” which is a Los Suziox song from back in the early days. Miseria and other songs from their extensive catalog are currently being rerecorded into a re-release at Andres Ocampo’s (lead singer) home studio.
Let me know what you think about this tune “Miseria” that I was able to capture the boys performing n the old flipcam. Que chimba (How cool) is that?