Paola, if I say that in Latin America, cumbia is the music of the people, would you agree?
Paola Marquez: "Yes and no... What is known in the rest of the world as cumbia, are really a number of Colombian genres put together under one name. What is true is that the cumbia rhythm has spread all over Latin America where it is played in various forms."
You're Colombian yourself, how did you end up in Belgium of all places?
Paola Marquez: "I came here just over ten years ago to further my studies in music at the Faculty of Music of the University College in Ghent. In Colombia I could only follow a classical education and I was looking for other ways to use my voice. Someone suggested I should come to Ghent and that's exactly what I did. I enrolled for a course in vocal jazz; something clicked and I met a lot of interesting musicians, so I decided to stay."
When did the whole Maguaré adventure start for you?
Paola Marquez: "Maguaré really started as my end project at the conservatory, but since we got such a good reception from the beginning, we decided to stick at it and here we are launching our first album."
How difficult is it for an eleven piece band playing Latin music to survive in Belgium?
Paola Marquez: "It's definitely not easy, but so far I think we've been blessed. Cumbia is growing in popularity in Europe and we're benefitting from that revival as in Belgium we're the only ones playing the genre. Belgium also has a very big festival circuit, which is very well-suited for a band like ours. Apart from that we're not afraid to cross the border either and with the kind of music we play we can easily get bookings in France, the UK and Germany as well."
What does the word "maguaré" refer to?
Paola Marquez: "Maguaré is the name of a drum used by a number of indigenous tribes (the Witoto, Siona and Cofán, red.) in Colombia's Amazon region. It's used to gather people from the surrounding areas, sometimes for celebrations, other times to perform certain ceremonies. The concept of calling people to get together sounded quite appealing to us and that's why we chose it as the name of the band."
The album also contains references to Belgian culture (Soeur Sourire's 'Dominique' and The Chakachas' 'Jungle Fever', red.). Was it important for you that there was also a Belgian side to the album?
Paola Marquez: "The band itself is composed of Belgian and Colombian musicians, so we thought it only fitting that that was reflected in the album as well. Everyone in Belgium knows 'Dominique', so they're always quite surprised when we start playing our version of that song."
Anibal Velasquez already scored a big hit with his version of 'Dominique' back in the 1970s. Did you know the song from when you were still living in Colombia?
Paola Marquez: "No, it was Jan (Verstaen, sax, red.) who made me aware of its existence and it was also his idea to add it to our repertoire."
For the production of 'Cumbia Insomnia' you called on Colombian craftsmen Mario Galeano (Ondatropica, Frente Cumbiero) and Eblis Alvarez (Ondatropica, Meridian Brothers). Where did you know them from and why did you feel the need to have them involved?
Paola Marquez: "I've known them both for many years; Eblis I've known from when we were kids and Mario attended the same University as me in Bogota. They're both great professionals and since we play Colombian music and they are Colombians they know exactly what's needed where. In my opinion they really succeeded in getting the essence out of our music."
The last track on the album is a very enjoyable remix of 'Ritmo De Juventud' by Hamburg based Renegades Of Jazz (David Hanke, red.). Why not do a whole remixed version of the album?
Paola Marquez: "Maybe not of the entire album, but we're having more tracks remixed, not only by Renegades Of Jazz, but also by a number of other artists. I think the version Renegades Of Jazz did of 'Ritmo De Juventud' really works and as an artist it's interesting to hear what other people can do with your music."
I'll end with a cliché question. Any plans to take this project home to Colombia?
Paola Marquez: "Of course, it's one of my greatest aspirations, but it's not as easy as it sounds. I think we're ready, though, and the fact we worked with Mario and Eblis might just benefit us there as well, as they have already made a name for themselves in the Colombian music scene."