Afrobeat in South America
An interview with Tom Pavez of Newen Afrobeat

Image Credits: Newen Afrobeat © Juane Morales

Aug 14, 2017
We have interviewed Tom Pavez of Newen Afrobeat, percussionist of the Chilean ensemble that, after releasing the album Newen Afrobeat in 2014 and the EP Newen Plays Fela in 2017, is now among the most important artists in the afrobeat world.
> Iug Mirti

How did the Newen Afrobeat form? Which is the line up?
It started in late 2009, with Nicolas Urbina as composer and lead singer. He started gathering people, many have passed through the band until it became the solid orchestra you can see today. The band is formed by: Marcelo Morales on tenor sax, Klaus Brantmayer on alto sax, Aldo Gomez on baritone sax, Fernando Carvacho and Mauricio Sanchez on trumpet, Tomas Pavez on afro percussions, Galita Ramirez on congas, Roberto Gevert on drums, Sebastian Crooker on guitar, Martin Smith on guitar (in this tour only), Alvaro Quintas on electric bass, Francisca Riquelme on lead vocals, Francisca Castro and Macarena Rozic on choirs & shekere.

Why an afrobeat project in Chile? What does the name mean?
Nobody was doing afrobeat in Chile, so it became something different to do, but also to have music with a message. Newen is a Madpudungun word (indigenous language from Chile’s Mapuches), which means strength, and also the spirit within all things.  
How do you work on compositions and arrangements?
In first instance Nicolás came up with songs and arrangements, then we processed them through rehearsals and, nowadays, it has become something more collective among the band members’ ideas.
Your first record came out in 2014; you have played all around the world in the meantime; when will you publish a new album?
We intend to release new original tracks in 2018 (we’ve released an EP tribute to Fela this year), we are currently doing some new songs live.
You have played in Nigeria at Felabration Festival. What was the experience like?
It was the best experience! We felt it had a good reception, and could also make more links with the Kuti family, Fela’s musicians and visit the land where it all began.
Do you think that in your music you can recognize your South American roots?
Yes! Afro influence is all around the world, we are putting this puzzle together as we mix afrobeat and altiplanic sounds, latin and more…

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