Center For Arts & Equity

Combo Chimbita

Through her folkloric mystique, otherworldly psychedelia, and a dash of enigmatic punk, Ahomale by COMBO CHIMBITA catapults the sacred knowledge of our forebears into the future. Their second studio album and Anti- Records debut sees the visionary quartet drawing from ancestral mythologies and musical enlightenment to unearth the awareness of Ahomale, the album’s cosmic muse. Comprised of Carolina Oliveros’ mesmeric contralto, illuminating storytelling and fierce guacharaca rhythms, Prince of Queens’ hypnotic synth stabs and grooving bass lines, Niño Lento’s imaginative guitar licks, and Dilemastronauta’s powerful drumming, the lure and lore of COMBO CHIMBITA comes into existence.

The legend begins with their first EP, 2016’s El Corredor del Jaguar, and followed up with the occult psychedelia of Abya Yala. In 2019’s Ahomale, the New York-by-way-of-Colombia troupe fuse the perennial rhythms of the Afro-Latinx diaspora with a modern-day consciousness, while tracing the prophetic traditions of our ancestry. “The more we’ve played music together, the more we began to discover things within ourselves that we were previously unaware of, almost like a energy. And that’s being communicated through our music,” explains Prince of Queens in the making of Ahomale. 

Inspired by a Yoruba term Ahomale, meaning adorer of ancestors, Oliveros reveals her quest to connect with ancestral cosmology, which the Combo pays homage to. “Ahomale resurges from the visions that we’ve been having via our music and life, and the lyrics reflect a manifestation passed on through our ancestors and the gods,” she explains. “I wanted the album to convey the search for spiritual awareness, which ultimately serves as a revelation.” In a similar spirit, Niño Lento conveys: “The protagonist of this album whose name is Ahomale possesses the ability to communicate ancestral wisdom through the music.”  

With the help of producer Daniel Schlett (The War on Drugs, Modest Mouse), the group’s rootsy experimental alchemy and metal strangeness take centerfold. Oliveros howls, yowls and chirps with gut-wrenching emotion, like on the languid mirage of “El Camino,” or plaintive frenzy of the title track. Whether rock raw and soulful or bewitching like a shaman in a spiritual ceremony, her voice is always a multifaceted wonder. “Brillo Más Que El Oro (La Bala Apuntándome)” boasts alluring vintage synths that seem to time travel through the lush tropics of yore; then, the mood intensifies when its bridge brilliantly crosses into a spellbinding chant sung in unison: “Y si digo que / Que ahora ya lo se” (“And if I say that I now know”). “Testigo” is pure melodic witchcraft in action that strips away wordly façades into something bare and beautiful: “Desde principio a fin, yo siempre di mi verdad” (“from beginning to end, I always gave my truth), the singer vulnerably croons against a whirling guitar and galloping percussions.

Ultimately, Ahomale is a catharsis of divine feminine force helmed by their powerhouse vocalist, laden with the teachings from a bygone era, in tune with the spiritual realm. “Our spirit and energy have passed through multiple generations,” says Prince of Queens. “We might not be open or allowed to explore it because of Western society’s conditions. But the idea is that we are receiving messages from the past, and from our ancestors that each one of us carries.” In nearly 40 minutes of eye-opening thrills and chills, the listener experiences the pedagogy of Ahomale, journeying through her epiphanies and enlightenment. “Ahomale is a warrior, not the sword and shield type, but a woman who is ready to listen to her heart, follow her intuition and connect with her ancestors,” Oliveros avows.

Brooklyn-based quartet Combo Chimbita honed their sound by playing together for years, experimenting with different styles until they landed somewhere between lively guacharaca rhythms and cosmic psychedelia. The group's intricate hybrid sound was brought to life when they began to focus more on vocal contributions from Carolina Oliveros, which guided the mysterious atmospheres of releases like their 2017 debut full-length, Abya Yala, and 2022's cathartic and spiritual IRE.

Combo Chimbita were formed in Brooklyn, slowly coming together out of years of four friends playing together and interspersing more experimental threads with their shared Colombian musical roots. The band was made up of guitarist Niño Lento, bassist Prince of Queens, drummer Dilemastronauta, and vocalist/guacharaca player Carolina Oliveros. Their sound truly took shape during ongoing residencies at Barbès, a corner bar in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. During these nightly jams, the group began morphing more traditional Colombian sounds with psychedelic jamming and spacy synth sounds not common to the traditional forms.

After releasing a split 7" with Greenwood Rhythm Coalition in 2014 and the four-song El Corredor del Jaguar EP in 2016, Combo Chimbita issued their raw and enigmatic debut full-length, Abya Yala. The 2017 album was recorded during an intense three-day session that found the band going into long trance-like jam sessions. The group's sophomore long-player, Ahomale, was released by Anti- Records in 2019. The album looked to Colombian folklore and mythology to inform its otherworldly and often foreboding songs, which included the single "Revelación (Candela)." The band's next album, IRE, released in January 2022, focused on themes of spirituality, catharsis, and political upheaval. Combo Chimbita continued to evolve both musically and emotionally on IRE, with all songs sung completely in Spanish and addressing issues such as racist power structures and totalitarianism.

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