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Guest Post: LA CUMBIA TEJANA

December 19th, 2011 Posted in Covers, Cumbia, Latin Funk, Tejano, Texas | 2 Comments »

Alex LaRotta is a good friend and emerging ethnomusicologist based in San Antonio, Texas.  This week he has written an outstanding overview about the incorporation of Cumbia into the Tex-Mex gamut.  Thanks, man!

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What’s often misunderstood about La Onda Chicana – the Tex-Mex musical/socio-political movement of the early 1970s – is that the ‘new sound’ emanating from Texas didn’t just incorporate American r&b and rock music, as it is popularly understood.  Tex-Mex orquestas associated with La Onda Chicana also incorporated música tropical of Caribbean and South American influence, though to a discernible lesser degree than Latin groups in New York and Chicago. The Colombian cumbia became wildly popular in Mexico by the early 1960s in part by Eduardo Baptista and his Mexico City-based musical powerhouse, Discos Peerless – one of the oldest and most influential Latin American record labels of the 20th century. As late as the mid ’60s, Peerless and its various subsidiary labels were licensing, pressing, and distributing Colombian cumbias across Central American and into the American Southwest, feeding the infectious cumbia frenzy on both sides of the border. Meanwhile, tropical groups started popping up across Mexico, emulating the great cumbia and tropical bandleaders of Colombia – Pacho Galan and Lucho Bermúdez were particularly popular figures of Mexico’s tropical scene. Though the craze wasn’t as profitable as the mambo or cha-cha-cha of several years prior, cumbia has enjoyed an arguably longer shelf life than many other of the ‘trendy’ Latin musical styles. Later re-imagined by Selena and her early ’90s pop crossover sensation, cumbia remains a genre favorite for Tejano bands even today. Needless to say, the synth-heavy and all-too-’80s sound of the modern cumbia tejana is a far stretch from its Colombian Afro-Caribbean roots, but these early Texas cumbias were remarkably pretty close to the big band sounds of Colombia’s golden age. Most Texas cumbias were covers of Colombian and Mexican hits, so while there weren’t tropical arrangers in Texas per se, Tex-mex bands of La Onda era were definitely bit by the cumbia bug.

Subtle changes to band arrangements and instrumentation can be found in La Onda records of the late ’60s/early ’70s, which had evolved from the basic bass-and-accordion conjunto instrumentation known throughout most of South Texas to big brass bands and full-bodied orquestas. Considering that both the Colombian cumbia and Tex-Mex conjunto are characteristically accordion-driven musical styles, the genre melding during La Onda heyday sounds quite natural, though notably distinct than the original Colombian compositions.

All history/ramblings aside, big up to Adam and Música del Alma for inviting me to share a few of my favorite cumbia tejana sides. Gracias compadre! Enjoy!

Sunny and The Sunliners – “La Pollera Colorada” & “Cissy Strut” from The Missing Link LP (Key-Loc, 1970)

Though Sunny and The Sunliners’ The Missing Link LP is well-known in latin funk circles (and it does get super fonky – check their rendition of The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” below for the non-believers), this record contains one of my all-time favorite cumbia covers. Sunny takes a swing at the immortal cumbia classic – “La Pollera Color·” – written by Colombian costeÒo Wilson Choperena of Pedro Salcedo y su Orquesta fame. Though no one could ever really top Choperena’s original, Sunny’s version easily qualifies for honorable mention. Wilson Chopenera recently passed on (a week ago as of this writing), but his legacy lives on with this timeless Colombian anthem and countless other compositions. R.I.P. maestro.

Little Joe and The Latinaires – “Cumbia de la Media Noche” from the Arriba! LP – (Buena Suerte, 1968)

From José ”Little Joe” Hernandez’s Arriba! LP – the debut full-length of his Buena Suerte imprint (of legendary Brothers Seven fame for the funk heads) – “Cumbia de la Media Noche” is a personal favorite. The huge (huuuge!) horns and luscious, bright keys alone gives it my Colombian stamp of approval – trust me, used only sparingly. “Cumbia de la Media Noche” was a popular cover tune of early Mexican tropical groups, recorded and popularized by Mexico’s Carmen Rivero y Su Conjunto in 1964. To my knowledge, Little Joe was the first Tejano to take a crack at it.

Lalo Garciano y Su Orquesta – “Poquita Fe b/w Alegria” (El Zarape, 196?)

A relative unknown of the Tex-Mex music world (aka ungoogleable), Lalo Garciano y Su Orquesta’s “Alegria” (a typo from the real title of the song, “Alergia”, and coincidentally my Mom’s name – HI MOM!), “Alegria” is a big horn cumbia produced by Mr. Onda Chicana himself – Johnny Gonzales of the Dallas-based El Zarape Records.* Originally recorded in 1968 by popular Mexican tropical group Sonora Santanera for CBS Mexico, Garciano and his group faithfully execute a near note-to-note cover of Chico Navarro’s original. Gotta love that big bellowing “CUMBIA!” that kicks off at the top!

Catching up: Caribbean Heat

December 14th, 2011 Posted in Caribbean, Covers, Guaguanco, Salsa | No Comments »

I’m feeling guilty for the lack of posts lately so I decided to do a couple more today!

One of the more sought after titles on Disques Debs, the Ce Soir Grand Bal De L’A.J.S. LP is a split album between Les Maxel’s & Typical Combo, who were two of the top French Caribbean bands of the early 70s from the islands of Guadeloupe & Martinique.  What stood out to me immediately about this record were the covers of two classic NYC salsa tunes, one by Willie Colon (“Ghana’e”) and the other by Ricardo “Richie” Ray (“Guaguanco En Jazz”).  Both covers proceed with a Caribbean style that is equal parts heavy and jazzy, all the while coming across as totally playful and fresh.

The rest of the album is pretty standard fare for a Disques Debs release, with one major exception: the Les Maxel’s track entitled “Ni Longtemps Ou Po Ko Vine a Case”.  The track is a jazzy, uptempo burner of a jam that I cannot wait to try out on a packed dancefloor!  If anyone has any other recommendations for stuff that sounds like this, please drop me a line!

Les Maxel’s: “Ghanae” (Disques Debs, Guadeloupe)

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Les Maxel’s: “Ni Longtemps Ou Po Ko Vine a Case” (Disques Debs, Guadeloupe)

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Typical Combo: “Guacuanco In Jazz” (Disques Debs, Guadeloupe)

LOS SEVEN DEL SWING: Picanton

December 14th, 2011 Posted in Colombia, Descarga, Guaguanco, Salsa | No Comments »

This LP was easily the find of the year for me. My top want as I headed down to Colombia earlier this summer to do some digging. It’s a legendary salsa record from a part of the country that was producing super deep cumbias at the time, making it stick out from the rest of the famed Candelazos Curro series all the more. It’s not the rarest record I got all year, nor the cheapest score, but it really doesn’t get any better than daydreaming for months about finding a record on a digging excursion, then pulling it on your second day there.

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Los Seven Del Swing: “Silencio” (Philips, Colombia)

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Los Seven Del Swing: “Descarga Improvisada” (Philips, Colombia)

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Los Seven Del Swing: “Celoso” (Philips, Colombia)

NEW GAITA & CUMBIA MIX: Sabor y Ritmo (DJ Slim Jenkins)

November 8th, 2011 Posted in Colombia, Cumbia, Mixes | 4 Comments »

I’m just back from vacation and inspired to start posting regularly again. This mix has been sitting on the back burner at Casa Musica since I made it this past summer after returning from a brief digging trip to Colombia. It’s finally time to let it loose!

Some of the heavier things that I ended up finding on the trip were the Gaitas (think brass-heavy uptempo Cumbias) from labels like Tropical and Fuentes. The ferocious big-band, wall-of-brass sounds that are featured in this mix fit nicely together so I decided to put them alongside some other classic cumbias for your listening pleasure. The result is Sabor y Ritmo, the latest mix from DJ Slim Jenkins & Musica Del Alma. Gozala!

 

DJ Slim Jenkins – Sabor y Ritmo

RIGHT CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD Or stream below:

TRACKLIST:

Sonora del Caribe: “Barranquillerita” (Discos Fuentes)
Edmundo Arias: “La Luna y El Pescador” (Codiscos)
Ramon Ropain / Combo Bonito: “Caracol” (Sello Vergara)
Pacho Galan: “La Funeral del Labrador” (Tropical)
Pedro Laza: “Monteria” (Discos Fuentes)
Ramon Ropain / Combo Bonito: “Cumbia Endominante” (Sello Vergara)
Los Playeros Del Caribe: “Cumbia Marina” (Melody)
Heber Macias: “Marly” (Cupido)
Los Tiburones: “Descarga Tiburones” (Tropical)
Ariza y su Combo: “Descarga en Saxofon” (Tropical)
Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros: “La Magdalena” (Discos Fuentes)
Manuel Villanueva: “Mi Calabazao” (Tropical)
Banda 20 de Julio de Repelon: “La Chamaria” (Tropical)
Lucho Bermudez: “Mi Pueblo” (Silver)

Hot Re-Release: GRUPO 2000 + Michael Piggott Interview

August 31st, 2011 Posted in Cumbia, Descarga, Latin Psych, Peru | 1 Comment »

East of the towering Andes Mountains in the cities and towns of Peru’s Amazonian jungle region, a prolific music scene emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.  The rubber boom in the 20th century saw massive migration to the area from a diverse array of enterprising laborers from the Americas and abroad (even Sephardic Jews from Morocco came to the area) in search of work.  This, adding to a significant indigenous population already living there, created an interesting cultural milieu to say the least!  The popularity of guitar-based cumbias and guarachas from Western Peru by bands such as Los Destellos and Los Diablos Rojos had an important influence on these Amazonian groups (think Los Mirlos, Juaneco, etc), but the music they created was quite unique with an incredible range of styles.

Searching out these lost Amazonian classics is Michael Piggott, who has been releasing tons of great Peruvian gems through the Light in the Attic imprint (Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical, etc).  His next project is an LP entitled El Destape by an obscure group named Grupo 2000 who were led by guitarist Tulio Trigoso.  I interviewed him recently about this recent reissue project, Peruvian music industry of the 60s & 70s, and about the Peruvian reissue game in general.

PRE-ORDER the LP here!

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Read the rest of this entry »

Harold y su Banda – Heavy Colombian Funk

July 18th, 2011 Posted in Colombia, Covers, Latin Funk | 7 Comments »

I have finally gotten around to processing all of my finds from my Colombia / Venezuela trip, so while I put the finishing touches on a couple of mixes I’m working on, check out this LP by Harold y su Banda.  In terms of funky stuff, the below LP quickly bubbled to the top and stood out from the all rest.  What ended up being a nice find on my last day in Colombia from a street vendor in Bogota, the Evolucion LP really has a lot to offer those of us who love Latin Funk music.  Harold Orozco, originally from Cali, Colombia, was apparently an integral force behind Colombia’s La Nueva Ola (New Wave) rock / beat scene during the 1960′s which looked to American and British popular rock groups for inspiration.

Eventually, instead of simply covering North American songs, Colombian musicians branched out and explored amazing new avenues of sound in the late 60′s and early 70′s. This brings us to Harold’s 1975 album, Evolucion, with its incredible production of funky rhythms and lush soundscapes.  A true studio creation, recorded in Bogota between 1973 and 1975 at the legendary Ingeson Studios, you really get the sense that Harold’s musical vision has reached maturity.  My first impression of this LP when I heard it was that it was recorded by a Colombian musician who had relocated to the US (also, the LP’s cover photo looks like it was shot in the American Southwest, cover photo shot in Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert).  But after more detailed listening I think that this album is a unique Colombian creation.

“Latino” is a killer uptempo b-boy funk track that leads off with a stylish guitar and rumbling bass-line.  The brass section and vocals really make this track shine, though! And how about those breaks?  “Busque El Gato” sounds like it could be at home on a Wganda Kenya album with its Afro Funk guitar, and was recorded in 1973 (two years before all the others).  Again, this is b-boy catnip! I wonder what other stuff he recorded in the early 70s?

The last two tracks I’m including here, “Ansias de Vivir” and “Alguien”, definitely have obvious mid-70′s American funk influences.  I can hear Mizell Brothers vibes all over the place in “Ansias…” (RIP Fonce), and even some Barry White in “Alguien”!

Harold y su Banda: “Latino”“Busque El Gato”, “Ansias de Vivir” , “Alguien”
From the Evolucion LP (CBS, Colombia, 1975)

Guest Post: Guaguanco Mix by Reynaldo

July 12th, 2011 Posted in Guaguanco, Reynaldo, Salsa | 2 Comments »

This is truly exactly what we need right now: a hot salsa mix to dance these summer nights through and through!  Nothing but Kool Heat!  Big thanks, Rey.

-Slim Jenkins

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My goal when I started to put this mix together was to find songs that are as good as “Guaguanco Tropical” by The Brooklyn Sounds–a song that could surely cause a riot if played at the right club at the right time. In the end, after listening to hundreds of guaguancos over the course of a week, I only managed to find a small group that come close to matching the energy of that great Brooklyn Sounds track. Here they are.

-Reynaldo

Download Reynaldo’s Guaguanco Mix (LVJ 005)

01. “Baila Mi Guaguanco” – Mon Rivera Y Su Orquesta
02. “Mania” – Tito Puente & His Orchestra
03. “Sabroso Guaguanco” – Eddie Palmieri & His Conjunto La Perfecta
04. “Loco Y Contento” – Ray Terrace
05. “Play Boy” – Pete Terrace
06. “Canallon” – Alfredito Y Su Orquesta
07. “Mi Guaguancó” – Joe Pappy and His Combo
08. “A Los Muchachos De Belen” – Betico Salas
09. “Guaguanco Tropical” – The Brooklyn Sounds
10. “El Reloj Pulcera” – Orq. De Cuchon
11. “Salsa” – Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez
12. “Benita” – Pipo Y La Superior
13. “La Margarita” – Roberto Y Su Nuevo Montuno
14. “Recapacitacion” – Bobby Marin

NOTE: This is Reynaldo’s 3rd Guest Post for Musica Del Alma.  Check out his other two posts here.

Peruvian Boogaloo Banger

June 16th, 2011 Posted in Boogaloo, Peru | 1 Comment »

Finally getting back from work/vacation in Colombia and Venezuela and I had an incredible time! Plenty of fun and records were found on the trip, many of which will be posted here either in reviews or mixes coming up really soon. I’m still processing my South American haul, so feast your ears on a tremendous boogaloo banger from Lima, Peru, which I had waiting for me at home when I got back.

Carlos Hayre (I’ve also seen it spelled Haire) was an orchestra leader and guitarist from Lima, Peru’s bustling capital city. Better known for his contributions to Peruvian music on the guitar, he also fronted Afro-Cuban bands that were gaining in popularity in 60s Lima. This week we have him doing “Me Gusta Boogaloo”, an utter dancefloor stormer of a track that has no guitar, just pure brass, piano, and rhythmic bliss!  Oh, and hand claps!

Shouts to DJ Hobo D from the Peligrosa Crew down in Austin, TX.

Carlos Hayre: “Me Gusta Boogaloo”
From the Virrey 7″ (Lima, Peru, 196?)

Los Aristocratas de Chicago Go Funk

April 24th, 2011 Posted in Covers, Latin Funk | 3 Comments »

While you may not think that Chicago, Illinois, was a hotbed of Latin activity in the 70s, think again. Not only were there plenty of hot salsa groups being recorded by EBIRAC Records, a Mexican-American group called Los Aristocratas de Chicago also found modest local popularity playing Latin music typical of Northern Mexico and the American Southwest. To be sure, though, they recorded for the Los Angeles-based Musimex label that marketed and distributed their releases mostly in the Southern border region of US where their core market resided.

Hidden in two bargain bin albums (both recorded in 1974) are single tracks that show another side to Los Aristocratas’ usual Cumbia / Ranchera / Balada musical leanings: funk music.  The first great example of this comes in their Vol. 1 LP with a real nice cover of Ray Barretto‘s classic summertime jam, “Cocinando”, which I have already featured on this site.  It’s a pretty straight-forward cover but for the hot electric guitar that comes in the end.  Suave!

While I’m at it, I wanted to throw up another track by Los Aristocratas that appears on their Vol. 2 LP from the same year (and most likely the same recording session).  “Poppin” comes across in true border-town Latin Funk fashion, and really it’s a funky ranchera a la Los Vampiros.  Me gusta!

Los Aristocratas de Chicago: “Cocinando” & “Poppin”
From the Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 LPs (Musimex, 1974)


TOP 5 LATIN FUNK TRACKS: #1 !!!

March 25th, 2011 Posted in Colombia, Latin Funk, TOP 5 LATIN FUNK, Venezuela | 6 Comments »

Y’all know the deal by now.  Here is my #1 pick!

1.)  Phirpo y sus Caribes: “Comencemos” (Philips, Colombia, 197?)

“Comencemos” is my top pick without question.  Phirpo y sus Caribes were a mysterious band formed in either Colombia or Venezuela during the early to mid-seventies, and were fronted by master Venezolano trombonist Porfi Jimenez (for those who have any doubts about this, just flip the first and last syllables in Porfi’s name around the “r” and you get “Phirpo”).  His trombone takes center stage in this cover of Fela Kuti’s classic “Let’s Start”, along with some fire-breathing trumpeters, a skilled guitarist and two energetic drummers.

Primarily known for his legendary salsa recordings, Parilla Caliente (hot grill/barbeque) was Porfi’s wild funk record that he presented to humanity.  While I dig pretty much the entire LP, “Comencemos” stands out as one of the most incendiary instrumental funk tracks of all time (Latin or otherwise).  It’s like a bright orange habanero pepper surrounded by green bells that look on in envy of its potency!

Special thanks to Oliver Wang and Roberto Ernesto Gyemant for help figuring out that Phirpo = Porfi Jimenez!

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I hope you enjoyed my top 5 Latin funk tracks!  I also wanted to include a few honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:

La Kabala: “Cumbanchero” & “Miami Beach”
Ray Barretto: “Together”
Los Sobrinos del Juez (Judge’s Nephews): “Harina de Maiz”

Soul Fantastics: “El Mismo (Sere)”
Nico Gomez: “Ritual” & “Lupita” & “Baila Chibiquiban”
Raoul Zequeira: “Maraca y Bongo”