Akola Tambo – Bullerengue to heal your heart – A unique musical experience in London

Energy: When the power of the traditional drums’ rumblings transcends deeply into my soul, yet I am here struggling to express the feeling using my words.

I am telling you today a story where the sounds of the drums touched my welcoming hearing to transport me to a pleasant-sounding setting that enchants me. Readiness was there to breathe this sparkling rhythm, a connection that I could almost touch with my fingers. It is an orange-coloured, energetic, circular, elevated and vibrant sound; or. This is how I experience it anyway, which boosts even the most crushed hearts.

How it all started:

An Afro-descendant beat power born over two centuries ago, initially performed by women as a cultural response within the maroon communities, with a connotation to puberty and fertility. This beat also entangled profound sentiments and was then used as a healing ritual and empowerment.

Today this beat is still thriving, far away from where I type these lines, in the Montes de María in Colombia, where some isolated Pachamama mountains witnessed the emergence of a rhythm of resilience, of deep soul moods. Since then, it has transcended from generation to generation… and one day, the universe was to present it to me as a heritage present for my soul…. in the middle of a hectic London life.

I remember a cold autumn night, a night of intense winds where the nocturnal clatters of this unique city welcomed me into a night of rich culture. It was October 2019, and the season was approaching with everything to cool down my nightly adventures. That night, I watched a short film production called “Cantadoras – Musical Memories of Life and Death in Colombia,” showcasing singing women who were empowered by their cultural identity. These songs enlightened my spirit that night.

At this small venue, Redon in East LondonI was attending the gig of Colombian group La Perla. A group whose sound is reinventing the traditional music of Colombia with their drums and pipes sounds. That night I was there along with some of my dancing friends from The School of Dance Talentos. We were there to support this night of drums with some energetic dancing.

Between sounds and the energy of the night, I crossed paths with Esteban Card, a Colombian artist with a fascinating vibe, whom I had already been following on Instagram thanks to the launch of his album InElementum. A musical work had “mystically” reached me through this social network. That night we exchanged some views, and with a powerful hug, we linked thanks to the vibes of music. 

Akola Tambo: The Beginning (my perspective)

A few months into that night of drums, beginning of 2020, Esteban’s invited me to be part of a new cultural project: Akola Tambo. A project seeking to open a cultural space to showcase a traditional Afro Colombian rhythm to the diverse London community: Bullerengue. A rhythm that sets “on fire” our hearts through a ritual of ancestral drumming, healing and a genuine connection with our divine spirit.

It seemed that the universe had, one way or another, led me to reconnect with this rhythm. During my visit to San Basilio de Palenque in 2018, I learned a few things about this ancestral beat and its importance within that humble community. However, during that visit, I did not have the chance to experience it first-hand. And so, I took this fantastic opportunity to be part of this heritage rhythm; I have since and with gratitude been part of the project.

What is Akola Tambo?

Much has happened since then; pandemics, lockdowns, economic crisis, natural disasters, and not to mention Brexit madness along with other frenzied events in this world that never stops. We also learned a new word for our English lexicon: Furlough!

Despite these events, absolutely nothing has succeeded in quenching the dynamic spirit of this lovely project, perhaps for the very reason that it is a rhythm of resilience, of diverse emotions and of connection with our own soul. I have seen massive progress in the evolution of Akola Tambo, and the group has now emerged as a tangible musical proposition for the London cultural scene. Bullerengue and its ancestral power is now part of several cultural gatherings in London, a source of immense joy and intense energy that my words alone cannot describe. You have to experience it yourself to fully grasp its power, to feel it within. If you don’t believe me, ask any member of Akola Tambo! 

These ancestral African beats date from the times of colonialism. A musical trance that tells you a story of African slaves who practised danced this ritual as a source of resilience in times of extreme suffering. Despite that their account has been said in a thousand ways, through this cultural showcase, I now comprehend more clearly their history and how they reached spiritual freedom through this mystical empowerment ritual.

This year the summer of Markfield’s Park has been adorned with the orange sunsets of a sky dotted with these impressive sounds of drums. The ecstatic sound of the “Llamador” and “Alegre” drums produce the thrilling beats of the Sentaos, Chalupas, Fandangos and Guapirreos. Our joined energies come together and move in a circular clap and dance, lifting the atmosphere with a deep sense of rejoicing, then peace and then immense gratitude. Passers-by are sometimes trapped for an instant by the power of these drumbeats. 

Akola Tambo has been able to share this traditional African diaspora rhythms with the London cultural scene, including Casa Festival, Iguana Festival, Fusion de los Pueblos Festival, Streatham Space Project, where the group performed the show “Weaving Sounds” designed by Luis Bonilla in phenomenal fusion with Royal Sounds, amongst various others.

I am grateful to the entire Akola Tambo crew for their energy and the opportunity to share with them this fantastic experience. I am also thankful to London’s Latin community and friends. I feel privileged to live in such a culturally rich city, as chaotic as it is magnificent, where the musical experiences are beyond inspiring.

Final thoughts.

I now continue to observe the moments of my exploratory life. Today I am here, but tomorrow I just know that I don’t know. All these musical moments are the building blocks of this ongoing gladness that the path proposes to me today. It is a guiding call to enjoy the power of my seconds more than ever, for it’s real; I can grab it and squeeze it. Thanks, Akola Tambo; I might not be the most talented, as I am a constant apprentice in life, yet my journey is the most joyous for all these beautiful gifts of the universe.

Today I invite you to reconnect with your spirit and experience these ancestral African-Colombian sounds, an undeniable proof that music heals souls and empowers our hearts. I finish these writing lines while observing the movements of the dancers in my nocturnal memories. Where sounds caress my face and inject me with doses of pure and warm energy. Delighted, I go to sleep in reflection, love and gratitude for the friendships created in these moments of music. 

I leave you with the following workshop, which will expand your knowledge of Bullerengue (in Spanish).

“Draw with your body the dances that come from the musical energy of our spirit” Thank you very much for reading my blog.

With love

🙏

Jenny

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