“People ask, ‘So you live, where, California?’” comments British D.J. and producer Will Holland, aka Quantic, with a bit of a smile in his voice. He´s speaking of Cali, Colombia, his home base for the past four years – a place he loves because it´s urban yet still intimate, a colorful kaleidoscope of a town where everything from the street vendors and palm trees to the tropical blooms that spill from every veranda seem to be swaying to music.
It’s also home to Quantic because he’s married to a lady from Cali. But if love has kept him in Colombia, it’s the music that brought him there. A tireless musical explorer and a prolific producer, for the last fifteen years Quantic has been searching for the finest, truest beats to inspire his own playing, composing and production.
The journey began in Worcestershire, England, where he was born into a musical family, complete with a banjo-playing dad, a fiddler mom, and a family band. As an adolescent, he began playing the guitar and producing his own music – mostly rock and incorporating synthesizers and electronic elements. “I guess partly rebelling against my parents’ folksy sounds”, he says, laughing.
The music production took him back to roots traditions, however. Constant travel as an internationally renowned DJ led him to a collaboration with Nicodemus, a Puerto Rican producer who invited him to San Juan to begin to work with Latin music. Then at some point shortly thereafter, came Quantic’s encounter with the cumbia, that irresistible mash-up of Spanish, native indigenous and African beats, of enormous popularity in the fifties and now resurgent in the aughts, played by groups all over the Americas from small accordion-based combos to super citified horn-laden big bands – a rhythm that was born many centuries ago of a Guinean dance rhythm called “cumbe”. Quantic expresses his amazement at the first cumbias he heard, and particularly remembers the effect of “Cumbia in Do Menor” a classic performed by Rafael ‘Lito’ Barrientos from Ecuador and recorded in Medellin, Colombia.
In addition to spending time behind the decks and in front of mixers, Quantic has founded two groups with whom he plays the guitar, “Quantic Soul Orchestra” and more recently “Combo Bárbaro”, an ensemble that incorporates several extraordinary Colombian musicians. In fact, he’s currently touring to celebrate the release of the “Caliventura Remix EP”, which features remixes from producers that chose their favorite tracks from the “Traditions in Transition” LP that he recorded with the Combo Bárbaro. (Note: There are some killer tunes on the LP. One of my favorites, “Canto a mi tierra” also sounds amazing in the remix versions).
I ask Quantic what he finds so special about the Latin side of music, particularly in comparison to the Anglo-European traditions of his family. “It’s all on some level the same”, he responded, “…people will sing about the same things, like there’s European folk songs about fishing, and there’s songs from the Colombian coast about fishermen. But then it [Latin sounds] gets more complicated, more wonderful because of the mix of people involved, you have the mix of the rich mysticism and indigenous elements. Like, there’s the accordion from Europeans, but it’s playing indigenous melodies “. He adds that in terms of his productions, Latin musics that have a strong African component mix well in the club sound that audiences world-round love for dancing.
But most of all, he concludes, he’d like to take audiences on a sonic journey through the Americas, to “…spread and understand and promote the idea that it´s a pan-American music – not just belonging to individual countries, like Panama, Venezuela, Peru… I love coming at the music as an outsider…I don’t have to be such a territorialist or limit myself just to what I consider ‘my’ individual tradition”.
March 9, Quantic celebrates the release of the Caliventura Remix EP at Butterfly Social Club.