El Sexteto Tabalá Las Alegres Ambulancias Portrait

El Sexteto Tabalá & Las Alegres Ambulancias

Medellín, Colombia

These two bands are the main musical representatives of a very special place in Colombia, San Basilio de Palenque. Palenque is an African village in Colombia, founded by fugitive slaves more than 300 hundred years ago. The music they play has been transmuted trough generations almost directly from the other side of the Altantic Ocean, in Africa. The translation for “Las Alegres Ambulancias” is the “happy ambulances,” because they were originally singing happy songs during funerals when a friend or a family member would die. El Sexteto Tabala is also a traditional band from Palenque created in the 30’s whose music has an undeniable Cuban flavor. This is not only because Cuban music has also strong African roots, but it’s also due to a number of Cuban engineers who came to Palenque during the 20’s, bringing with them their music and influencing the local scene. Andrew Valdez, singer of the Sexteto Tabala is featured on the first verse of our version around Colombia of La Tierra del Olvido, bringing an incredible feeling to the song.

How we met:

When we arrived in Palenque, nearly 20 musicians were waiting for us to record on Carlos Vives’ song, La Tierra del Olvido. Most of them where members of Sexteto Tabala and Las Alegres Ambulancias. The youngest was a 9 year-old who was playing together with his father, mother, grandmother and great grandmother!! Four generations were playing together at the same time with the rest of the musicians. They were mainly playing percussions and vocals — the exception being a marímbula, the African ancestor of the double bass.

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