Arts, Culture & Media

Here's a look at KiT, an energetic band from Curaçao

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Call them the ABC islands of the Caribbean. All three are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with differing degrees of political autonomy.

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Beyond that, Aruba is vacation central. Bonaire’s known for its spectacular diving. And Curaçao — well, Curaçao boasts some spectacular music.

That includes a fiercely energetic band called KiT.

It’s short for kuenta y tambu, meaning stories and drums in Papiamento, the most commonly spoken language on Curaçao.

Roël Calister, who leads KiT, says “tambu is the name of the drums, but it's also the name for the music style, the dance. It's like a whole culture.”

Tambu drums used to be made from old rum barrels covered in goat skin. Modern tambu drums have to stand up to the rigors of touring clubs around the world. But they remain loud and low: just right for bone-shaking dance parties.

KIT

Curaçao-based KIT.

Credit:

Brett Russel

Calister says tambu music traces its roots back to the slaves who were brought to Curaçao, and to the songs they sang.

“The instruments were taken away, so all they had left was the hand clapping, the foot-stamping, and the singing,” he says. “And they used to sing the tambu songs really low because the rest of the world wasn't supposed to hear [them].”

Calister knows his history. He used to teach school workshops on the subject.

“You wouldn't have much time so you would just show the instrument and say really quick what it's usually used for, and what we use it for in our music.”

KiT looks as much to the future as the past. Four years ago, Calister started to add electronics to the sound, and rhythms from club culture. But he needed a great singer too. He found one via YouTube.

“I saw this video from a friend of mine,” he remembers,  “and there was this crazy MC jumping and running from one side of the stage to the other one, hyping up the crowd like crazy.”

“And what made it more interesting was the fact that this particular MC was from Aruba, like, the sister island of Curaçao. Meaning she would understand the traditions, she would speak the same language.”

Her name was Diamanta von Lieshdek.

Calister called her up. It was a fast process.

“This is the stuff, boom boom boom, see you Saturday,” she recalls.

“It was a match,” says Calister. “And so after we came back from tour I was like, okay, yeah.”

The alchemy’s plain to hear on KiT’s latest album, "Tambutronic." Both Calister and von Lieshdek describe the music as ‘nasty.’ In a good way.