Combo Chimbita - Babalawo

Song of the Day
Hosted by Kevin Cole

Today's Song of the Day, as chosen by Kevin Cole, host of Drive Time on KEXP, is "Babalawo" by Combo Chimbita, a 2021 single on Anti-.

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pHOTO by Paul Grace
written by jasmine Albertson

Combo Chimbita is the project for four first-generation New Yorkers who make tropical futurism inspired by the cumbia of their birth country of Colombia and the rock n’ roll of the American city they call home. Since the release of their incredible 2019 full-length Ahomale, the quartet have been steadily churning out singles that continually build upon their otherworldly mystique.

Our Song of the Day, “Babalawo,” is the latest single to be revealed and an incredible entry point for those unfamiliar with the band’s gorgeous genre fusion. While my sub-par Spanish skills prevent me from deciphering the song’s lyrics, the passion and fury with which frontwoman Carolina Oliveras sings bridges the language barrier by letting listeners into the cosmically spiritual world with which the song lives.

“We debuted ‘Babalawo’ when we played with Sun Ra Arkestra and it’s become a favorite song from our set,” explains guitarist Niño Lento. “It has some hints of trap, a bit of rock, but also carries influences from Haitian music and sounds. Carolina’s lyrics are also important since they describe some of our first encounters with Regla de Ocha (often known as Santeria). These intimate moments of spiritual guidance are incredibly important to us as a band with decolonial aspirations.”

“This song narrates a dream I had in which an Eggun (deceased person) assuaged my fears and encouraged me to continue down my path,” Oliveras says of “Babalawo.” “They said ‘Ponte pa lo tuyo,’ a directive to follow that which is already mine — a message I felt important to share forward … While it may seem that this song is dedicated to a particular Babalawo (similar to a priest in a Yoruban context), it’s also an homage to the many teachers who form the Yoruban culture and religion around me and continue to inspire a deeper exploration from me.”

The song comes with a video featuring multidisciplinary artist Edrimael Delgado Reyes in a fiery interpretative dance that draws from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that heightens the drama of the “Babalawo” to celestial levels. Watch the video, directed by Oscar Diaz, below.



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