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Pixvae: hot-blooded fusion between French metal and Colombian Currulao

Last summer, French-Colombian collective Pixvae was the sensation of the Haarlemmer Houtfestival. Their debut was recently released through the prestigious French label Buda Musique. This week they have two Dutch shows.

There is no better way to start a day than with Pixvae's first CD. Eight pieces only, but the energy that oozes from it is irresistible. The music of this band from France sounds like a hot-blooded nuclear fusion. French metal (to be precise: mathrock) in a confrontational clash with traditional Colombian vocals and percussion (to be precise: currulao and cumbia).

When Kouma (conservatory-trained jazz musicians from Lyon who played metal) tired of instrumental metal and decided to look for a singer, a cassette came to their attention from the group Nilamayé. A traditional folk group of Colombians who, like Kouma, turned out to live in Lyon. What happened next in the rehearsal room surprised them as much as the thousand-strong audience they cold see dancing in front of them a few months later in Toulouse.


Pixvae's music is reminiscent of an unlikely jam between Captain Beefheart's American art rock and Colombian currulao legend Peregoyo y su Combo Vacana. Currulao is Afro-Colombian folkloric music, consisting mainly of vocals and percussion. Peregoyo managed to enrich it in the early 1970s with ferociously swinging brass, making it suddenly sound like a pleasantly mangled version of salsa.

Salsa is focused on dancing: so is currulao, but originally mainly for Colombians with an innate sense of rhythm. Those complicated, offbeat rhythms usually drive a white person to despair. Peregoyo therefore never transcended national borders. While the re-release of their classic album Tropicalisimo by Buena Vista Social Club's well-known label World Circuit in 1989 led to worldwide recognition. Dutch label Otrabanda Records even released a new album by Peregoyo in 2004.

Pixvae drives Peregoyo's inventions one level higher. Pixvae's sound has decidedly Beefheartian and Zappaesque connotations, without incidentally ending up with a bland kind of retro. Like Shellac[hints]From legendary indie producer Steve Albini[/hints], Pixvae grosses in lead-heavy guitar parts that are executed with a sardonic pleasure particularly tight. The warmth of Colombian source thus gets mixed with the energetic of metal.


Pixvae's music brought leading British magazine The Wire to the enthusiastic characterisation 'A double dose of future-ancient Afro-Colombiana', while a French jazz magazine christened them the biggest surprise of 2016. Over 40 performances in France followed, mostly at jazz festivals that were left in dancing bewilderment. The French music press is lyrical, judging by the chock-full press file. In the Netherlands, two performances are scheduled, one of them as a support act. For lovers of danceable innovation, this is an urgent recommendation to be there.

Good to know

On Friday 17 February, Pixvae will play as support act for Los Paja Brava (Grounds, Rotterdam, 20.00h, €10) and on Monday 20 February they will play a concert of their own (Paradiso, Amsterdam, 22.00h, €9). For Mixed World Music, I spoke with Damien Cluzel, guitarist of Pixvae. This interview is here to read. 

Jaïr Tchong

Formerly cultural journalist and music programmer (Tolhuistuin, Melkweg) in the Netherlands. Since 1 December 2019, music programmer for arts centre KAAP. KAAP organises two annual collaborations in Bruges and Ostend. In Ostend in its own venue by the sea, in Bruges nomadically throughout the city and with partners such as Concertgebouw Brugge, Cactus, CC Brugge and De Republiek. KAAP also organises festivals: Push the Button, Dansand, Jazz Brugge and AMOK.View Author posts

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