That Colombian Sound

By: José Manuel Simián

How many vallenato bands that are big in Japan can you think of? The only possible answer is LA’s own Very Be Careful, a quintet that has been rocking the Colombian genre with an urban attitude since way before most people could say “Afro-Colombian” with a straight face.

The band, formed in LA in 1997 by brothers Ricardo and Arturo Guzmán, has released seven albums of no-frills vallenato that exudes the authenticity of original rock and roll. When the accordion and bass of the Guzmán brothers lock in a groove with the three percussion instruments—cowbell, caja vallenata and guacharaca—even the stiffest of dancers have a hard time staying put on their feet.

Easy as it may be to call any band a “cult” one, we can think of few other Latino roots outfits more deserving of the title. Besides having a passionate following in Japan, when they lived in New York in the late ’90s they used to crash parties with their instruments, guerrilla-style. One of these musical assaults eventually triggered one of their most important traditions: throwing a rooftop concert in Brooklyn every Fourth of July. Need one more reason to like them? The Guzmán brothers have composed songs with their mother, Deicy—“La Alergia” and “El Hospital”—and they are both killers.

But if that last factoid makes you think we’re talking about a PBS-friendly world music band, you’re wrong. Just ask Arturo Guzmán where they find inspiration for their songs, and he will say something like this: “Animals and party animals, monsters and party monsters, Speedy and Gonzalez, the Three Stooges, memory loss and babies having babies.”

Curious about how that sounds? Besides getting yourself a copy of their latest album, ¿Remember Me from the Party?, you can catch them live this Friday, September 13, at the Tonga Hut, LA's oldest active tiki bar.

Just don’t spill that Jungle Jetsetter while trying to keep the beat.

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.