Meet ChocQuibTown, The Unapologetically Black Trio That Has Been Pushing Inclusion In Latin Music For Over A Decade
By Tai Saint-Louis
May 4, 2022
Since 2010, ChoQuibTown has been flying the banner for Afro-Colombians, holding a mirror to the racism and colorism that exists in their country. But as much as their music has been the sound of protest, it has also been a celebration of culture. For the past 14 years, Gloria “Goyo” Martínez, her brother Miguel “Slow Mike” Martínez, and her husband Carlos “Tostao” Valencia have been showcasing African influence in Latin music through their mix of Hip-Hop, pop, and Latin rhythms such as currulao and salsa.
It’s even built into the name ChoQuibTown: a play on the state of Chocó, known as “Africa in Colombia” and Quibdó, the province’s capital. “We wanted to get people talking about this region, which doesn’t really get coverage on the radio or television,” explains Tostao. “We wanted to tell our own stories so that they’re also part of the daily story of life in Colombia.”
Following the release of their debut Oro, which featured their 2010 Latin Grammy Award-winning single, “De Donde Vengo Yo,” the trio has emerged as one of the biggest Latin groups on the international stage. Along the way, they picked up several Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations before their latest win in 2015, when their album El Mismo was named Best Tropical Fusion Album.
ChocQuibTown’s growth coincided with a rise in popularity of reggaeton and other Latin urban sounds on the international stage. Sadly, the popularity of those sounds has not led to the equality and inclusion ChocQuibTown told Univision they were fighting for way back in 2011. In 2019, several Reggaeton artists boycotted the 20th Latin Grammy Awards after being excluded from some of the most prestigious awards categories. This followed what columnist Eduardo Cepeda calls “a long history of snubbing reggaeton” which goes back as far as 2005 when the success of Daddy Yanky, Don Omar, and others brought reggaeton to the mainstream.
The 2019 boycott was, of course, followed by the global Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, which saw the Recording Academy make several changes to the ways in which Black music across the globe is recognized on all Grammys platforms. That change spread elsewhere in the Latin music industry. And ChocQuibTown was right in the middle of the conversation.
In 2021, the group lent their voices to two projects examining the African roots of Latin music: the Spotify podcast LOUD, hosted by legendary reggaeton artist Ivy Queen; and an episode of Amazon Music’s Genero 101 series dedicated to Afrobeats Latino. All while working on a new album due out this year and relocating to Miami – the American capital of Latin music.
Get familiar with ChocQuibTown ahead of their AFROPUNK performance by checking out their latest Spotify playlist Bitcoin. You can also get to know Goyo as a solo artist on her episode of HBO’s concert series En Letra De Otro in which she pays homage to the women who have inspired her – from Billy Holiday to fellow Colombian Shakira.
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