by Constance Tucker
Rio Mira is a marimba super group with Afro-Pacific binational heritage. Their latest effort Marimba del Pacifico is Co-produced by Grammy nominee Ivis Flies and Grammy winner Ivan Benavides. Based in Esmeraldas, a town on the Pacific coast in the north of Ecuador and named after a river that flows just over the border in Colombia. As a group, Rio Mira’s driving force is to revive and revitalize the music of the slaves who were brought over from Africa, some of whom escaped to find shelter in the region. The region’s music has a unique style that has been granted cultural heritage status by Unesco. Rio Mira takes this essence and seamlessly creates an intriguing blend of two marimbas, a xylophone-like instrument whose roots derive from Africa. Couple that with drums and shakers, and a signature call-and-response vocal harmony dialogue, and you have the sound of Rio Mira.
Their music is not exclusively Ecuadorian or Colombian—it is Afro-Pacific. The songs contained on Marimba del Pacifico are exotic and intoxicating. “Guarapo” offers a Caribbean timbre and rhythmic feel, while Aguacerito” is fashioned in a call and response approach showcasing the relentlessly stellar vocal abilities this group has to offer. On “Patacore” the listener is taken on an excursion of driving mallets and Cuban inspired hooks that elate the tunes melody to a memorable place.
Continuing the journey of sights and sounds “Nina Elena” offers a shimmering interplay between marimba, congas and shakers, highlighting the rumination and physicality of this music. “Roman Roman” more than any of the songs on the album exemplifies the El Pacífico communities and its flowing rivers. Once again, the driving marimbas create a forceful gate that emulates the power of the river and its path out to sea. “Estaban Llorando,” offers a symbiotic beauty between the vocalists, the melding of their voices is peerless.
Rio Mira has created a breathtaking soundscape with Marimba del Pacifico a reworking of nostalgia and a conscious step forward of modernity, giving way to a universal platform of world music.