This Short Doc Traces the Deep African Roots of Music from the Ecuadorian Coast

The marimba is one of the most distinctive musical traditions in Latin America — particularly in Ecuador, where marimba rhythms have become part of UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the newest episode of ZZK Films’ documentary series The Nu LatAm Sound, the Argentine label and artist collective travels to Ecuador to shine a light on the instrument and other African-origin sounds folded into the country’s history.

The inaugural episode of The Nu LatAm Sound premiered back in September, profiling the musicians who mix indigenous and contemporary sounds in Ecuador’s Amazonas region. ZZK picks things back up on the northern coast, turning the attention to Esmeraldas, a city rooted in African culture. Several musicians illuminate the region’s rich history and collection of musical influences: Papá Roncón, a famed marimba player and guardian of Esmereldas’ past, recounts how African slaves brought over by the Spanish introduced the marimba to Esmeraldas natives. The Cayapa people adopted the instrument and shaped the way it would be played in the region.

The 21-minute episode also turns to young producers and how they’re infusing their music with sonic traditions gleaned from the country. “It’s more like a re-encounter — that it was about time we started focusing on our traditions,” says Lascivio Bohemia, a producer based in Quito.

The Nu LatAm Sound is just one of several documentary projects that ZZK launched this year to explore unchartered territory in Latin America. In February, they debuted A Musical Journey, their first full-length documentary about Argentine songstress La Yegros taking Europe by storm. Then, they released trailers for Analog Memories, a look at a forgotten record label in Quito, and The Sound of Change, which follows ZZK’s own ascent as a record label and creative community.

Check out The Nu LatAm Sound and if you’re into it, support the series through ZZK Films’ crowdfunding campaign.