Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Pile Driving in El Alto
El Alto is one of the highest cities in the world perched above Bolivia's capital, La Paz on a massive plateau. Its population, mostly indigenous is one of the fastest growing in Latin American cities. Many of the inhabitants have moved from the country to escape poverty hoping for safer financial stability working in the city below. My fleeting memories when I passed through as a tourist on a bus was damn, this place looks hardcore. And it is.
Most buildings were roughly built, functional Breezeblock structures. Ugly, though not as bad as certain parts of South London. Its bloody cold as well, the altitude so high you are gasping for air most of the time. I got the impression the people are tough as fuck. Everywhere were signs of pretty severe poverty, the population keen to reclaim the countries huge wealth of natural resources, especially natural gas. Most is exported to other countries and the profits are certainly not reinvested in this city. This has resulted in some major unrest in the country, to the point where civil war was narrowly avoided in 2005.
Bolivian Female Wrestling has recently taken off in a big way in El Alto. It is a place of extremes. National Geographic photos here.
Chicha is not only the name of home made Inca beer but also the popular strain of cumbia heard all over this area. Its big in Peru also. A tropical hybrid of Amazonia cumbia and more traditional Andean folk music.
Pretty much every bus or taxi seemed to play it, its the sound of the streets (that and most kinds of metal). The mixtapes have MCs shouting over the tracks in Spanish and Quechuan. Wayne and Wax will tell you a lot more in this great post from a while back. The bootleg DVD market is pretty massive too with videos often shot in Bolivia's surreal natural landscapes. Like thisand this.
Argentina's ZZK records have just released El Remolon's wicked album of dubbed out cumbia. You can buy it here.
This track stands out for me especially.
El Remolon - Bolivia
Catch El Remolon, Villa Diamante and El G live now on their European Tour.
Friday November 21 - Nitsa, Barcelona, Spain
Friday November 27 - Zaragoza Latina Festival, Zaragoza Spain
Saturday November 29 – The Rumble, Malmo, Sweden
Wednesday December 3 - Musicalia, London, England
Thursday December 4 – Movimientos, London, England
Friday December 5 - Secousse c/Radioclit, London, England
Friday December 5 - Time Out Party, London UK
Saturday December 6 - Scala, Berlin Germany