Roberto Lopez is a Colombian-Canadian musician and composer who pushes the boundaries of modern Latin music with hip arrangements. Under Colombian grooves, he unabashedly adds jazz, funk and electronic music to the mix. His projects have been presented on tours across Canada, Chile and Mexico. He has received several nominations (JUNO, ADISQ, GAMIQ, Canadian Folk Music Awards), as well as receiving the prestigious Artiste révélation Radio-Canada Award.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, he was part of the 90’s wave of musicians responsible for the Rock en Español movement. Along with his band Doble UC, they dominated the local charts between 1991-1992 and are now part of several compilations of the history of Colombian Rock. In 1994 Roberto moved to Montreal, Canada, to pursue his music studies at Concordia University. Involved in many musical projects, Roberto played from Jazz to Salsa, to Brazilian Popular Music to Hip Hop. He composed music for several documentaries, animation films, video games and theatre. He was nominated at the Gemeaux Awards for best original score.
Inspired to pursue his own musical project, he created the Roberto López Project in 2005 with musicians from all the corners of the Americas, with whom he explored Latin grooves in an urban context. He released Que Pasa? (2006) and Soy Panamericano (2009). Won the Artiste Révélation Radio-Canada Award, the FMMJ and Francofolies Award, received several nominations and toured across Canada and Quebec. In 2007 he opened the Francofolies alongside main Quebec artists in front of 20 000 people and the show was filmed for TV.
In an effort to continue his musical explorations and to bridge two of his passions: Jazz and Cumbia, Roberto created the Afro-Colombian Jazz Orchestra in 2011 to pay tribute to some of the greatest Colombian composers and revive the Cumbia big band sound from the 70s. He released Azul (2012), an album that has an instrumental signature, precise arrangements and features the virtuosity of the musicians. He toured across Canada through the Canadian Jazz Festivals travelling from coast to coast. He opened for major acts, such as Macy Gray, David Murray Big Band, and acclaimed Benin guitarist Lionel Loueke (Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo).
Roberto teamed with Belizean producer Ivan Duran (Calypso Rose (with Manu Chao and Santana), Andy Palacio, Aurelio, Garifuna Collective, Kobotown), to create an album with unique sonic explorations of Latin roots and funky grooves: Criollo Electrik (2017). This new work eludes the norms of Latin music and reserves a special place for his instrument: the electric guitar. The album was recorded between Montreal, Canada, and San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. Official selection to showcase at Mundial Montreal and at the Bourse RIDEAU in 2018, Roberto was awarded the ROSEQ/RIDEAU Award for his memorable performance.
After the guitar quartet, Roberto went back to including a horn section and pursue his exploration of Colombian grooves this time mixed with Soul horn lines, Motown-inspired bass lines and Latin electric guitar. He released Kaleido strópico (2019), an album that featured a unique sound, with mixed grooves and an original sonic landscape around the tunes. The album reached many TOP-10 charts: Colombian National Radio, Global Village KMUW Wichita (USA), Global A Go-Go WRIR Richmond (USA), CFBX Kamloops, CJAM Windsor, CJSW Calgary, CJLO Montreal, CKUA Edmonton, CITR Vancouver among many other, and received many reviews, and nominations for album of the year in World music at the ADISQ 2019, and at the Canadian Folk Music awards in 2020.
For his latest album, Ritual (2022), Roberto decided to come back to the guitar quartet but this time to include the voice as an instrument doubling some of the guitar lines. The “coros” also became more prominent compared to his three previous albums, giving the album a new sonic exploration in Roberto’s career. The tunes detach from traditional form and navigate in a more contemporary context mixing many styles. Roberto worked with Brazilian singer Flavia Nascimento and Cuban singer Adan de Dios (Klimax) on the recording. This last album is a statement of the many influences in Roberto’s musical journey.
Nu Afro Latin / Latin Soul
# of Albums:
Solo tu vibra
Favourite musician growing up:
Rush. Loved how big they sounded as a trio. They were completely underground when I was growing up in Colombia. It was difficult to get their albums. I listened to a lot of music, but as a teenager rock was my thing.
Favourite musician now:
Chick Corea. I’ve been rediscovering all his work. Such an amazing performer and composer.
Guilty pleasure song:
Stayin’ Alive (BeeGees). Something about that groove.
Live show ritual:
Never think about the show, get distracted in conversations with band members just up to the moment we hit the stage. That way I don’t get a chance to get anxious.
Favourite local musician:
EP or LP?
Early bird or night owl?
Definitely night owl. Not a morning person.
Road or studio?
That’s a difficult one as they are so different. Road is about performing and enjoying the audience. Studio is nerdier, as it is about creation and exploring sounds. Plus I have built some of my studio equipment, so there’s the pleasure of using your own built equipment.
Any shows or albums coming up?
My latest album “Ritual” was released on September 23rd, it was so much fun to do this album and explore a different sound as well. Finding what to say as an artist is always the most difficult part of creating. I felt connected to the concept of this album, the choice of instrumentation, the melodies, and the sound. Really happy with the result. Looking forward to playing the songs live!
Where can we follow you?
Rapid Fire Vancouver Qs
Favourite local restaurant:
Tri Express. My favourite sushi place.
Favourite street in your city:
Beaubien East, near Parc Molson. Love the vibe of that place, with the different restaurants, the park surrounded by nice houses, and the cinema nearby.
Favourite park in your city:
Park Île de la visitation. Love that park as it is just by the water, you can walk to the island in the summer, and you can do cross-country skiing in Winter. Lots of people fishing, you feel you’re not in the city there.
Favourite music venue in your city:
Théâtre de verdure. This is a magical venue right on park Lafontaine, and I had a chance to play there this Summer.
Favourite music store in your city:
33 tours. That’s my go-to place for vinyl.