The passionate, soulful voice of Colombia’s GRAMMY-winning trio Choc QuibTown, Gloria “Goyo” MartÃnez has become one of the most rousing and conscious lyricists in Latin music
Born in ChocÃ³, a department in Colombia nestled along the Pacific region, Gloria Martinez grew up in a vibrant, musical household. Her mother and aunts often sang together. They’d usually share stories about how her late grandfather was a great bolerista, and met her grandmother while being active as a musician. Her father was an avid vinyl collector, who owned an impressive collection of music from around the world. At soundsystem block parties, he would spin his vinys while entrusting his daughter to select tracks to play. Her favorite was “Goyito Sabater” by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, which endearingly earned her the nickname Goyo.
Goyo was also entrenched in the traditional music of her native country. She once appointed herself president of the legendary salsa ensemble Grupo Niche’s fanclub – Jairo Varela MartÃnez, the group’s co-founder, was her second cousin. A few years later, the tenacious prodigy joined the pioneering electro-cumbia troupe Sidestepper as a vocalist. “While I was studying psychology in college, I had ChocQuib Town as my goal to belong to a collective of musicians,” she mentions. “Not like a band, but more like a collective such as Wu Tang Clan or Goodie Mob.” She felt that there was no space for a new musician in ChocÃ³, but that changed when she got into the impassioned, pedagogic rap of Lauryn Hill. She took cues from Hill’s seminal 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The American rapper’s unabashed approach to uplifting black women’s identity was especially influential for Goyo, particularly at a time when misogynistic and materialistic lyrics in hip-hop abounded, and their representation in hip-hop
Enter -ChocQuibTown – the Afrocolombian trio of wise wordsmiths comprised of Goyo’s soulful yet conscious rhymes, Carlos “Tostao” Valencia’s swaggerful flow, and the positive lyricism and vibrant beatmaking of Slow mike – formed in 2000 in Cali, Colombia. They recorded under a DIY studio they dubbed ChocQuib House. Six years later, they released their full-length debut album, Somos Pacificos, a propulsive rap outing that showcases their pride for their heritage via their genuine yet streetwise sen sibility. “We from the Pacific were always called those from Buenaventura, ChocÃ³, or the Cauca Valley. But never referred to as PacÃficos. I think ChocQuibTown changed that,” Goyo reflects.
Since the group’s emergence, Goyo and her bandmates have become long-time defenders of the Afro community in the face of systematic racism, and they’ve managed to bring inclusivity and visibility to Afro-Latinxs on major media outlets. “We felt that there was not much inclusivity in television (for Afro-Latinxs], or in many other spaces.” The Afrocolombian singer, rapper, and composer has also been championing more inclusivity and equality for women and the Afro-Latinx community since her arrival in the public eye.
The group continues to bring topics of identity, multi-ethnic representation, and the daily hustle and bustle of urbano culture forward on their follow-up record, 2010’s Oro. ChocQuibTown belovedly pay homage to their native Choco in “De Donde Vengo Yoâ€ which earned them their first Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Alternative Song. As a new mother, Goyo’s storytelling continued to evolve com passionately, as seen on ChocQuibTown’s Latin GRAMMY-winning El Mismo (2015) and in Sin Miedo (2018). “Through my art and experiences, I feel a responsibility to show my daughter the world. For her to create her own experiences, to always respect others, and to never give up,â€ she says.
“Inclusivity, in one way or another, is something that has been very important for the group. To work for equity and equality for not just Afro-latinx and women’s rights, but human rights,” Goyo reflects. “I believe that Choc QuibTown has an important part in that history, and it is something that fills me with much pride. That’s why I feel very proud to be part of Choc Quib Town, not only to be successful as an artist and singer, but as a person.”
On their latest album, 2020’s ChocQuib House, the collec tive pays tribute to their origins, the hub where their sound was born, over slinky R&B and infectious Afrocolombian beats. The album arrived amid a vulnerable time for the black community as institutional racism once again came to the forefront of political discourse due to the murder of George Floyd. Via song and her social media presence, Goyo continues to empower communities of color, while remaining a formidable voice for gender equality. This is evidenced by the group’s latest single, “Que LÃ¡stima,” fea turing Sech, an empowering statement on women’s rights amid toxic relationships.
Hi Goyo! Thank you so much for chatting with us here at Galore. For those of us who donâ€™t know you, how would you describe yourself in 5 words?
I would describe myself as an altruistic person as a person who likes to set challenges and take risks in life a very loyal person I also think that I am a very absent-minded person, but at the same time I am very creative
You are extremely vocal and conscious, why is championing for more inclusivity and equality for women and the Afro-Latinx community important to you?
Well I think it’s important because I’m an African-American woman and it’s important to know where I come from and to know my culture, I also see what the career of a black woman is like in Latin music and all this makes me think that it is important to talk about the subject not only because there are many difficulties some things that I talk about, racism in the social system, but also to try to change things and then open space and opportunities for many artists who come from different cultures or places so far away that they can’t get that far, so that seems important to me and also because I recognize how important it is that Latin America be multicultural in its scene also in the urban and in the entire Latin scene
Who are some people you remember championing for you?
My mother has been very important in my process as an artist, as a woman being a mother too, my management team Diego Medina, Diego Toro, my brother in the production part, I have many people who really wear the shirt for me.
You were inspired by your mother and aunts who often sang in the home? Do you feel you inspire the younger generation of women in your family?
Yes I think so, many people think that it may be possible to achieve things if they see that another person has achieved it, so I think that with everything that had happened and in fact they tell me, I mean my nieces my cousins that they feel proud of me. Its good to help in some way so that people can continue dreaming of fulfilling all those goals that they thought at some point were not going to be possible. Obviously that I was inspired by me in my mom, in my aunts and in my family.
How did your band ChocQuibTown emerge?
ChocQuibTown was born in Cali, we started rapping on the 19th where many rappers used to go, we wanted to talk about our roots, or why we didn’t have as much visibility being afros, we really wanted to make songs, to make music. ChocQuibTown is a dream of the 3 of us, in which each one of us has different facets as artists, we have somehow managed to unite and work together as a team and achieve songs like “Pa Olvidarte” which is a song that has more than 100 million views. It was a success at a Latin American level, songs like “Bitcoin” which is the song that is playing and the opportunity to have made a career as a woman that helps me now sustain my solo career, to be able to take the panther out.
What are three of your favorite songs that you and the ChocQuibTown have created?
“Somos Pacificos” I love it, I really like a song called “Cuando te veo”, I like many songs I could go on all day, I also like the song we are promoting right now called “Bitcoin”, “Pa olvidare”.
What are some communal projects you and ChocQuibTown have done or would like to do?
We have characterized ourselves by doing several projects, we were in a very important one called ChocQuibFilms where we had the opportunity to donate equipment to make videos and help part of the youth community. And now we have a very nice project in which we are donating an agenda that was designed by a Chocoano artist named Wazolo, and that is an agenda for people to start writing their dreams, we wanted to give away something that is educational, we started with notebooks now we give away agendas, for example we are going to Tumaco to play and we are going to take some agendas to different groups of young people who are working on various community processes such as the visible hands. I would love to make the foundation of ChocQuibTown, also the foundation of Goyo, to be able to help my community in the artistic and musical part, there are many things that do not reach my community and I would love to make them reach them
You have worked with many remarkable artists such as Farruko, Zion & Lennox, Ziggy Marley, Becky G, Rauw Alejandro, Nicky Jam, Manuel Turizo and more! What were some memorable moments with any of these artists?
Working with Farruko was incredible, I remember it was January 2 or 3 and we thought it would be very difficult for him to arrive, and when we found out that he had been there it was very exciting.
Zion and Lenox I remember that they were at a party and they sang, they were very energetic, it was very exciting to see them recording the video, working with Becky G was incredible and having sent that message to the women in the video of our song “Que me baile” where basically we were making the men dance, they always make the women dance in the videos, it was very exciting to change the plot in that video, and with Manuel Turizon we are family, Nicky Jam is very funny, the times we have recorded with him he arrives with a kind of freestyle and the lyrics just come out, we love him very much!
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to do collaborations with Missy Elliot, I dream of doing collaborations with her, she is also Cancer like me, we are celebrating our birthday in July, with Beyonce maybe, also with Rihanna, it would be great. I love Koffee and Alicia Keys.
Who are some other Afro-Latina artists that you recommend for the Galore audience to listen to?
I would love to recommend an Afro-Latin artist that I love, his name is Robe L Ninho, he is Cuban, he has a song that talks about hair, I really like what he does.
There are many projects that are coming out of Cali, there are Afro-Latinos like Dawer X Damper seem very interesting to me, I really like the exotic rhythm of Lakin who is a DJ, Luis Eduardo Acoustic, Robby with his song called “Fuck You” or “Parchese” I recommend this one, I like it a lot
If ChocQuibTown could plan their own festival, what would be the name of the festival, where would it be located, and who would you want on the lineup?
Very difficult to know, but I would have Colombian and Latin artists as headliners, I would have Tego, I would love to have a salsa group, because in the Pacific people love salsa, I would also have several reggeaton artists like Bad Bunny, ChocQuibTown obviously, Maffio. I would love to bring African artists, I would love for Tempz and Drake to come, It would be a festival with a lot of variety, it would also bring an artist from the United States, I would love to see Chloe and Halle live. I would do the festival in Cali.