Sucking my chocolate, the champita that unites Colombia with Uganda

By Guillermo Romero Salamanca

Betelsa knows Uganda and Jabinica has never set foot on Colombian soil, however, they are united by their African roots and above all music, but especially Champeta.

Petilsa, better known by the nickname of Mrs. Champeta, once passed a store, ordered a drink, and a neighbor said to her, “Give me some of your chocolate.” A phrase that, instantly, woke up fans to compose a song.

Arriving home, he took out his notebook and began writing the song. He was already ready and decided to call Gabinika, an exceptional singer from Uganda. WhatsApp emails and messages travel back and forth.

The idea was growing. They are joined by Vicente Van Love, production by Kenzy Producciones, and video production between Harold Pérez in Cartagena and Lule Fatah in Uganda. Of course, to get a job of this class they looked for the great Bobby Perez for the mix and it was perfected by Johann Sebastian Perez.

Musicians were Bobby Perez on keyboards and bass, Johan Sebastian Perez on drums, Luis Garcia on guitar, Luis Perez performed simple percussion and the choruses were: Tacho Lucora and Kelly Torres.

The recordings arrived from Uganda via the Internet, in the voice of Kirkis Gabinica. “There were hours of talks and then work on finalizing the corresponding permits, but both in Uganda and in Cartagena they were happy with this heroine who unites two very brother countries,” explains Petilsa.

She has said in media interviews that singing is in her genes and that she still feels the power of Africa in her heart. From a young age, she has been singing songs in Bantu. They are melodies that speak of nature, sun, stars, work, light, freedom, joy or love.

“Sometimes when I watch a documentary about Africa, it tells me deep down that I was already there. I feel its strength, its colours, its songs, its drums and its cries, but above all its joy,” says Petilsa, a woman who has been singing in life for more than forty years.

“They say history is written by whoever emerges victorious, but surely Africa was the continent that changed America, and it wasn’t the Europeans who simply came to take the riches. Our ancestors turned these lands into agricultural labor camps, bringing their culture, gastronomy and songs with those sturdy wooden and leather drums Africans knew how to take care of the land—because that’s what they had done for centuries—and got along with the natives, says Betelsa now.

– Why do you say that today Africa is more than ever in America? They asked him a few months ago.

Because she is present in all her expressions. If we talk about food, many of its dishes have an African core, and the same goes for clothing, traditions, and what we don’t say about music. Dozens of tunes come from there. In our colombia, we remember cumbia, mabale, joint, cumbion, passing through valinatus, meringue, parandonis and other species.

– Why did you sign up for Champeta?

– I started singing Knuckles, Cumbia, Vallenatos and when I started Champeta, I loved it and recorded the first songs, which is why they called me “First Lady of Champeta”. It’s been more than 30 years since I’ve taken music to different parts. You hear these songs in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and the Antilles, but the amazing thing is that, in countries as far away as Uganda, they also heard those songs that talk about love, passion and rumba, but they carry a lot of nostalgia.

-Can it be a greeting?

-naturally. The first for our African race. Although we are in Colombia, this does not mean that we do not carry those colors, flavors, culture, music and genes to this beautiful continent. But it is also a sign of joy for all the musicians of Cartagena, but I also remember all the people who supported me like my family, Moises de la Cruz and his sister Nouri de la Cruz, as well as all my followers.

What did you like about this recording?

Many things, for example, got these musicians to do the job. The trajectory of people like Bobby Perez is phenomenal. Let us remember that Cartagena had an innate and ingenious talent. Then, when we fully sympathize with the Ugandan musicians, it’s as if we’ve known each other for years. The video, which was filmed in Cartagena, shows the most beautiful thing in the city, its walls, streets, sea, and above all, the beauty of its people, and this is what we want the world to know.

What did they tell you about this job?

– I was touched by the words of people from all over the world and from the many who watched Cartagena through this video. I can only be thankful to God, to life, and to this beautiful land full of goodness.

– Will there be more works with artists from Africa?

– Of course, and I hope to travel soon to that beautiful region and invite artists from there to Cartagena and find out how good the chocolate is here.

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