Home Read Albums Of The Week: Combo Chimbita | Iré

Albums Of The Week: Combo Chimbita | Iré

Spirituality and solidarity are the twin pillars that upnderpin the adventurous tropical futurism of the New York City band's densely rich, darkly groovy third full-length.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Continuing their mystical saga, New York City’s Combo Chimbita roar back onto the global stage with their cathartic new album Iré.

The title is forged upon double-edged meaning: On one hand embracing the divinely inspired blessings and prosperity foretold by our spiritual elders, and on the other a brazen, propulsive affirmation of revolutionary futures in the making. Afro-Caribbean transcendance, bewildering chants, booming drums and psychedelic distortion lay the foundation for Iré; a testament to the ever-expanding scope of Combo Chimbita’s sonic palette and their modes of resistance in realms both spiritual and terrestrial.

Iré finds its rallying spark in convulsive present-day realities by metabolizing the anxieties of systemic racism, capitalist decadence, totalitarian governments and the attempted erasure of queer and trans people. Early writing sessions in the summer of 2020 found Combo Chimbita grappling with the limbo of the COVID-19 pandemic, while a firestorm of Black Lives Matter protests swept through streets around the globe. Months later, they flew to Puerto Rico to record and mix the LP, bearing witness to the suffocating complexities of the island’s imperialist tether to the U.S.

With every bang of the drum, Iré grew into an expanded canvas depicting and defusing existential tension, reaching critical mass in April 2021 as the band departed for Colombia. Plans to film videos for singles Mujer Jaguar and Todos Santos were postponed to prioritize and support one of the biggest people’s uprisings in the country’s modern history, where a new generation of Colombians continue the fight against corruption, state-sanctioned violence, and oppressive governance. “Every day, young people across Abya Yala put their necks on the line,” says singer Carolina Oliveros, whose soaring wails on the wordless Mujer Jaguar echo the generational trauma reverberating through Abya Yala and galvanizes a battle cry for the next torch bearers. 

Seeking greater understanding, Combo Chimbita explored Oliveros’ extensive study of bullerengue and sacred drumming traditions, which connected to the diasporic influence of Yoruban culture and its many syncretic manifestations across Abya Yala. “Our roots are calling to us,” she says about Iré‘s deeper plunge into spirituality, which had already shaped much of the band’s previous album Ahomale (2019), and infuses fresh life into cuts like Babalawo, Oya, and the time-twisting hymn Todos Santos.

But Combo Chimbita’s musical quest is not only spiritual. Tracks Yo Me Lo Merezco and Lo Que Es Mío, Es Mío radiate a very different kind of divine feminine strength and radical self love emerging in Oliveros’ songwriting. “Those songs are from me to me,” she says. “They’re gifts I decided to give myself — an affirmation that we deserve to unapologetically enjoy the rewards we’ve worked to attain.” Where conflict was undoubtedly a catalyst behind Iré, vulnerability, reflection, and healing become integral to find zen between body, soul, and mind. “We’ve grown,” she adds. “We’ve changed. We’re evolving.”

After partnering with La Ruta Studio in Colombia for Mujer Jaguar and Todos Santos, Iré is accompanied by four auto-fictional narrative videos with prominent queer and trans performance artists in Puerto Rico for singles Memoria and Babalawo, as well as Oya and Yo Me Lo Merezco. The foregoing series, produced by trans director and manager Oscar Diaz, “builds a critical bridge with queer & trans artists whose work illuminate ways of resisting, of living, [and] of stretching into generations of wisdoms,” they added.

“Within the saga of Combo Chimbita,” reflects guitarist Niño Lento es Fuego about each of the band’s releases, “El Corredor del Jaguar (2016) finds this eternal being lost outside their realm and returning to Abya Yala (2017) in order to heal and restore peace to the continent. Ahomale (2019) appears as a guiding energy of resistance and now Iré (2022) represents those chosen to lead the revolution and materialize the good fortunes foretold in their divinations.”

“It’s important to listen and feel this worry and the desire to change and improve things,” adds Oliveros, capturing Iré’s transcendent purpose to heal and construct a new world through the power of music. Like the jaguar before them, Combo Chimbita carries on; delicate, resilient and roaring.”

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