Hailing from Pasto, Colombia, the riveting new Andean octet Bambarabanda arrived in full bloom Thursday. It's difficult to categorize the multi-instrumental collective's sound because it springboards from a cornucopia of Southern Colombian folk styles into prog rock, polka, funk, punk, rap, ska, and so on. No genre boundary was safe, and all manner of strings, reeds, and hand percussion were fair game. In this respect, Bambarabanda resembled a South American version of Gogol Bordello or Fishbone, but the group's unique geo-cultural perspective gave its musical gumbo of styles a flavor all its own. Garbed in colorful outfits, the band's desire to revive and renew the sounds of its ancestors was apparent throughout. Call-and-response boy/girl vocals danced above the mix as the crew jam-packed each song with rapid-fire intricacies and around-the-corner surprises that demanded conscious listening. But this wasn't prowess for prowess' sake: It was pure, unbridled fun. When the rhythm took hold, you had to at least tap your toes. Bambarabanda's sonic carnival demonstrated the finer points of musical universality by removing familiar pop styles from their Anglo-American comfort zones and delivering them with a spin that made it all seem fresh again. Que rico!
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