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Thursday, April 02, 2009


Sound of Conscience: Aterciopelados

Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores

WITH A NAME that literally means "velvety ones," Aterciopelados live up to their moniker by playing feel-good ethereal electronica and funk fused with traditional folk music from their native Colombia. They also manage to take these smile-inducing rhythms and infuse them with powerful messages, denouncing violence and political injustice and standing up for women's rights and the environment. One can imagine the band's socially conscious messages and groovy beats fitting in during the 1970s. "I could see my music being hippie, totally," said Atercios' (as they are known) lead singer, Andrea Echeverri, in Spanish. "I believe in their pacifist philosophy, and their love of nature. My sentiments are with the hippies." And in the spirit of the '70s, Atercios — which also features bass player Hector Buitrago — donated their song "Cancion Protesta" and helped rework the lyrics into the catchy "Price of Silence" song for human rights, sponsored by Amnesty International earlier this year. The song brought together an all-star cast of global musicians — Atercios, Julieta Venegas, Stephen Marley, Natalie Merchant and Cucu Diamantes — and was filmed at the United Nations General Assembly. It also reunited the band with longtime friend Andres Levin of Yerba Buena, who produced Aterciopelados' successful 1998 album, "Caribe Atomico." "The end result was incredible," said Etcheverri. "Working again with Andres was muy chevere, very cool. You truly got the sense of the multiculturalism. You can go from Hindu to African beats to Latin sounds. It's a mix of multiple countries that spreads our message to fight for human rights." Another cause the band has backed is the Destierro y Reparacion project, which aims to bring attention to the forced displacement of native peoples in Colombia (and other parts of Latin America) and proposing a Colombian constitutional referendum declaring that the country's bodies of water deserve basic rights. This particular passion is highlighted in last year's "Rio" — an album dedicated to their beloved Colombia River. "It's like having a coffee everyday: You have to think about the environment all the time," Etcheverri said. "The climate is crazy. There's rain when there should be sun and flooding in all parts. As musicians, what we can do is create awareness and hope to change people's attitudes about Mother Earth. We have to reconnect with her." » The State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church; Thu., April 2, 7 p.m. doors, 8:30 p.m., $26; 703-237-0300.

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