Melbourne’s Amaru Tribe: Colombian, Caribbean and tropical influences collide live on stage

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Melbourne’s Amaru Tribe: Colombian, Caribbean and tropical influences collide live on stage

Amaru Tribe

Amaru Tribe took the disruption of the pandemic as an opportunity to remodel the creative output of the band.

With partners Oscar and Katherine acting as the spine of the band, the last two years have seen them condense the size of the band, incorporate the use of visual art, and steer towards more significant electronic production.

The versatility of the band isn’t limited to its sound. Amaru Tribe have been collaborating with dancer Katlin Gonzalez since the inception of the band, and with an upcoming performance scheduled at Chapel Off Chapel with afro jazzy house band Soulectric, there will be an opportunity to showcase the work they have been doing with her.

Amaru Tribe and Soulectric at Chapel Off Chapel

  • Date: 31 March 2023
  • Time: Friday: 7.30pm
  • Tickets: $35 Standard
  • Duration: Two hours (incl. 20-minute interval)

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“It is something that has evolved as we have gotten to know each other,” says Oscar. “Initially it was just a project where we wanted to make songs. The project has transformed from a six-piece to a four-piece band that has given space to a lot of the electronic production of music we make in the studio.

“The visual elements are something that really started to take form in this new formation of the band. Just before the pandemic hit, we took that time to focus more on the electronic side of things and how that will work with the visual elements that Katherine wanted to make.”

Despite this transformation, Amaru Tribe have continued to be influenced by Indigenous culture, namely Quechan and Kogi, both of which come from northern South America. Oscar and Katherine are both originally from Colombia and they place a lot of importance on the recognition and celebration of Indigenous culture.

“My partner Katherine is from Colombia; her family is from Bogota,” says Oscar. “I am from Barranquilla, which is on the Caribbean coast.

“A lot of our sound doesn’t just have electronic influences but has South American influences. This includes Indigenous flutes, Afro percussion etc. The flute is from the North Coast; it is from the areas of the Kogi. The flutes we are using are called gaitas.

“I bring a lot of that tropical energy into the band. We aren’t just influenced by Indigenous sounds; our music is really mixed, like mestizo influences fused with Caribbean rhythms and tropical sounds.”

“The dancer we have been working with is Katlin Gonzalez,” says Oscar. “She is a very well-known Colombian dancer who has been working on a practice called ethno-danceology. She incorporates a lot of Indigenous rituals in her dance practice, which is something that the band connect a lot with.

“We have been working with Katlin since almost the beginning of the project – this is the point we bring her into the show. It is always something special. It will be an interesting night, not just musically but visually with the dancers embedded in our music.”

Amaru Tribe will be performing at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday March 31, supported by Soulectric.

“This show will be a good opportunity for anyone to see us who hasn’t seen us before – this might be our last show for this season. We are going to go into hibernation to finish the release of the next singles. We are really excited and honoured to be playing alongside Soulectric.”

Although the gig at Chapel Off Chapel will be a significant marker for Amaru Tribe, Oscar and his bandmates are set on continuing to expand their arsenal of art-making techniques and develop their creative output.

“Every time we discover new ways of incorporating these sounds, we want to perform them. In the new tracks I have been playing more synth. As a guitar player and vocalist this is the first time I will be able to play keyboard and sing. Christian, who is a very well-known percussionist in the Latin scene, is given the opportunity to explore in our band. People are going to see something new.”

In Quechan, Amaru means the serpent, and in the culture symbolises the connection between “the spiritual world and the terrestrial world,” says Oscar.

For the band, it acts as a fortified symbol for their approach.

“We found that it just identified us as a South American tribe living outside of our motherlands but creating something new here. It is something we feel really strongly about, and we want to break the stereotypes of South American culture.”

Chapel Off Chapel’s Summer Sessions feature Amaru Tribe and Soulectric on Friday March 31 at 7:30pm. For more information, head here.