Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Juan Data's Wish List For The Next Decade

Last January I tried to play Walter Mercado and come up with some predictions for 2009, none of them really worked. I suck, I know. So, this time around, instead of predictions I'm bringing you my eleven commandments for the new decade that's about to start. Let's see...

No more Auto-Tune. Shit hit the fan the moment auto-tune started being used in cumbia. There’s an unwritten law of fashion in urban US that says that trends become instantly passé the moment they are picked up by the working-class Mexican and Central American immigrants. Something similar should apply to the Auto-Tune trend. It was OK in gay pop, we tolerated it for a bit in hip-hop, it was already absurd when it reached reggaetón, by the time it starts appearing in cumbia, it means we all need to start looking for a new way of hiding the unskilled singer’s shortcomings... or start taking singing lessons.

No more US-based “rock en español” bands playing covers of Maná, Soda Stereo, Enanitos Verdes, Caifanes, etc. This probably made sense back in the 90’s because they appealed to the nostalgia of that specific wave of immigrants, but to start a band in this century playing those same songs... What an anachronism! In the new decade they will be playing for a crowd that wasn’t even born during Soda Stereo’s heights. It's time to update the standards. When will we have cover bands playing Babasónico’s Jessico or Cerati’s Bocanada?

No More Miami douchebags rapping on MTV. This one is self-explanatory. Nobody likes these walking bags of misused testosterone telling you how they're gonna take your girlfriend to their hotel room the moment you turn around because they have more money than you. Especially if they can't rap.

No more Myspace bands. (Or should I say no more Myspace all together?) Nobody gives a rats ass about myspace anymore since everybody migrated to Facebook, except for Hello-Kitty-tweens, people who bought their first computer in the last two years and unsigned bands that suck. Every once in a while I still check mine, just to see what’s up. All I get are friend-requests from fat girls or bands who are just promoting themselves by sending automatic massive friend-requests to random users. I only send friend-requests to bands I’m actually interested in, in case I wanna make contact with them, that’s the only reason I haven’t deactivated my otherwise useless account. But these fuckers, on the other side, they wanna be my friends not because they are interested in what I do, but because they want me to listen to their crap. “Hello, Juan, listen to my music let me know what you think.” Get a fucking life, seriously! Special mention for those who have songs that go into instant play as soon as you open their profile.

No More rap songs featuring Julieta Venegas doing chorus. (Or should I say no more Julieta Venegas guest appearances, period?) There must be hundreds of more talented singers, better lyricists and of course, way better looking women (even within Mexico!). It’s time to start giving them too a chance at being the token guest-chorus-girl for every other Spanish speaking rapper.

No More rap songs that talk about hip-hop culture and the four elements. During the 90’s most Latinos didn’t know shit about hip-hop, so the elite of know-it-all rappers (myself included) felt compelled to come up with educational songs about hip-hop culture, thinking that if they get people to understand its principles, they would appreciate this music better. This has been proven wrong way too may times because, in most cases, those purist rappers only end up preaching to the choir of orthodox b-boys. It’s time to move on kids, if people didn’t care about your goddamned four elements in 1996, there’s no point in trying to convert them now that hip-hop is dead.

No more movies with Gael and Luna. Am I alone on this? I’m sick of these two metro wankers. They are at the verge of turning themselves into a Mexican cinema cliché. Like, in Argentina they make movies about the disappeared, in Spain they make movies about transvestites and now in Mexico it seems like they only make movies about these two underdeveloped heartthrobs. So yeah... and please, don't let Gael sign again. Ever.

No more wannabe artsy bands with non-sequitur random names. Nothing screams “don’t listen to my band” louder than an absurd pretentiously ironic name. I think you should all stop doing indie (whatever that stands for anymore) rock and lock yourselves in an art gallery opening to talk about the deep significance of abstract installations to some interpretative dancers and vegan girls with glitter on their face... Whatever strokes your overvalued ego, but get off the stage and let the rockers rock.

No more new-anything. From nü-metal to new bossa nova (isn't that a lovely oxymoron?) and nuevo tango to my beloved neo-cumbia.... in the first decade of the current century we revamped pretty much everything that was considered corny during the 90's. It’s time to stop being lazy and come out with some all-original new music genres! Something that hasn’t happened since the 70’s, by the way.

No more DJ’s who can’t mix. Granted, DJing was a little elitist back when it was limited to the people who could afford to buy two turntables, a mixer and lots of records. But those people, for the most part, tried to get their investment money worth by practicing or at least, trying to figure out how to work those things.
Nowadays, laptops and cheap software democratized the access to DJing to virtually everybody and suddenly every other loser out there thinks he/she can rock a party and take the groupies home.
The problem with making DJing so seemingly accessible is that these new wannabes come with the this-is-so-easy-anybody-can-do-it attitude and don't even worry about learning the very basic mixing techniques. And that drives me nuts especially because most of these new DJ programs already do most of the beat-matching work for you... and they still can't mix! Go back to the dance-floor where you belong.

No more rhyming "cerveza" with "cabeza". From all the easy, predictable, obvious rhymes that saturate the Spanish-language songs, that's the one I hate the most. I can name you ten songs right of the top of my head that use that (it's a particularly common mistake in cumbia and beginner's rap). But the same rule applies to rhyming "noche" with "coche," "hermano" with "mano" and "vagabundo" with "mundo". And don't even get me started with "qué pasa?" rhymed with "en la casa" or "la raza". It'd also be greatly appreciated (but I recognize for some it's too much to ask) if they stopped using the words "corazón" and "candela" in every other verse. We have a rich lexicon full of synonyms, it's time to start digging deeper in the thesaurus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best of 2009-Part 4: Top 11 Albums

I know old-school readers are gonna try to argue this, but I don’t really like albums. There, I said it. I think that (aside from some extremely few exceptions) genius comes in small doses and sporadic influxes of inspiration. There are maybe ten albums EVER that I can really listen from beginning to end without being tempted to skip a track. Lots of great albums have many inspired moments, which I love, but even the best ones have some filler or some self-indulgent parasite crap attached to them. Besides, from a DJ perspective, albums are absolutely pointless because you never play more than two or –in exceptional cases three- tracks from one record in your set (unless it’s a compilation, of course). That’s why DJ’s in general, and I in particular, love singles. I love 7 inches and yeah, I love MP3’s, a format that allows me to keep only the tracks that I like and/or I might play, and delete the rest of the crappy album to save storage capacity in my hard-drive (and avoid embarrassing moments when you have guests and you have your ITunes playing in shuffle mode). So, without further ado, here’s a list I compiled of 11 albums released in 2009 that I enjoyed and saved in their entirety.

1.- ZZK Sound Vol.2
File under: Post-Neo-Cumbia and beyond.
Format: I have two CD’s, the ZZK Records' version and the Nacional Records' version. And no, you can't have one, I’m keeping them both for their historical significance. Besides, the Nacional Records' version has one track less (the one by Marcelo Fabián) but one more (by El Remolón) if you buy it digital.
Reason to keep it all: Virtually all the tracks here are must-haves for my DJ set. There’s no filler.
Mixability: Both my mixtapes Linyerismo II and Mersaholic have plenty of music borrowed from here, and there’s still more to use in future work.
Favorite track: “Cartagena” by Sonido del Príncipe.
Available: on, itunes, etc.

File under: Post-modern hipster-hop and random self-indulgent ironic crap. Format: Nacional sent me the CD, which forced me to listen to the album as a whole, if I had to buy it track by track, I would’ve probably gotten 9 out of the 14. Reason to keep it all: I have Camilo’s same sense of humor so the whole album makes me laugh.
Mixability: “Cumbia” is a great track to play with and also is “Yo Digo Baila,” I used pieces of those two in my mixes Mersaholic and Linyerismo II respectively.

Favorite track: “Alocatel (Ad Rock Remix)” if only for the fetish extra value of having one of the Beastie Boys work on it... I’m so jealous...
Available: on, itunes, etc.

3.- CHICO SONIDO – Chico Sonido
File under: Cut-n-Paste collage of old school Latin funk and other weird shit.
Format: I got it on CD, but MP3 would’ve been just as good because the CD book doesn’t have any interesting information at all.
Reason to keep it all: There are many lessons to be learned of this and it requires multiple listens to appreciate it.

Mixability: Mixing in a DJ set tracks by other DJ that already are a mix of other tracks is like cheating for some, but I’ve done it and I don’t regret it (a break from “Más Discoteque” was used in Mersaholic). Still, this is an album designed for attentive listeners and not so much for DJ’s to play.
Favorite track: “Ye Ye Ye”
Available: on, itunes, etc.

4.- BRONX RIVER PARKWAY – San Sebastian 152
File under: Latin funk.
Format: MP3 but if I ever see the vinyl LP, I’ll buy it right away.
Reason to keep it all: I never listened to the album in order as a whole, but I had it on random rotation on my Ipod for months and every time a track from this album comes up I’m instantly like “wow, what is that?!” It hasn’t ceased to surprise me yet.
Mixability: Haven’t played any of these tracks on my set or mixtapes yet, but I’ll probably find a way to do so soon.

Favorite track: “La Valla”
Available: on, itunes, etc.

5.- QUANTIC and his combo bárbaro – Tradition in Transition
File under: Gringo digging Colombian music.
Format: MP3 but would be great to find it on vinyl.
Reason to keep it all: Record collector Quantic has proven many times that he knows way more about Latin (but cool) music than almost anybody else in Latin America. He moved to Colombia, formed a band with locals and this is the result: a Latin beathead's wet dream.
Mixability: Unlike previous Quantic work that used to be more electronic and DJ oriented, this is some old school instrumental shit, the type he likes to sample from. Besides pleasing the break-hunters out there, it'd pretty good for the traditional salsero crowd if only they were a little more open minded.
Favorite track: "Mambo Los Quantic"

Available: on, itunes, etc.

6.- ANA TIJOUX - 1977
File under: Classic hip-hop with nostalgia for the 90's.
Format: Bootleg MP3 sent by Anita herself before the official release of the album. Pretty cool, yeah, but I still prefer the old days when she would send me a signed CD.
Reason to keep it all: It's Anita, my biggest and longest lasting "celebrity" crush ever and I love her to death, so I have to save anything that has has her voice in it (I also saved the work-in-progress demos of this album).
Mixability: Oh, how I wish there was a party or venue and a crowd where I could play her music here in the States! Unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet. The Latin-pop and LatinAlt audiences still don’t understand hip-hop (unless it’s fusion). The US Latin hip-hop audience doesn’t understand “good” hip-hop. Otherwise, there are plenty of tracks in this album that I’d love to spin. Since it’s mostly jazzy downtempo, I’ll be including many of these tracks in my lounge sets for sure.
Favorite track: "Crisis de un MC"
Available: Here.

7.- EL REMOLÓN - Pibe Cosmo
File under: Neo-Cumbia.
Reason to keep it all: Nobody personifies all the greatness and innovative characteristics of the whole Zizek scene in one artist better than El Remolón. Besides, hes from Caballito!
Mixability: Not all the tracks are dance-floor oriented, but you can tell they all have a DJ brain behind them. Plus they have plenty of clean breaks to cut and play with, ideal for mash-ups and shit like that. I used his music in all my mixtapes of 2009.
Favorite track: "Negros Cumbieros"
Available: on, itunes, etc.

8.- TOY SELECTAH - The Mex-More LP
File under: Neo-Cumbia and Ravertón remixes.
Format: As far as I known, it was only released in MP3 for free download, I guess they can’t really sell it because of all the copyright infringement.
Reason to keep it all: Duh! It’s Toy! What kind of question is that?
Mixability: By definition, all Toy Selectah tracks are great for DJing and are a must on everybody’s play-lists. The only problem is that sometimes he over-produces them too much, puts way too many layers of stuff leaving very little air to breath, or breaks to play with.
Favorite track: “One Minute Pal Cumbión!”
Available: Here.

9.- DJ RAFF – Traveling Partners EP
File under: Post-hip-hop, turntablism.
Format: Free MP3 download.
Reason to keep it all: His previous album Raffolution was pure gold so this one was a no-brainer, and it was free! Dude, I would’ve paid for this. DJ Raff is the best DJ in all Latin America, is that enough reason?
Mixability: 100%, For DJ’s By DJ’s could be the slogan.
Favorite track: “I need a beat”
Available: Here.

10.- AZAXX – The Exotic Delight Bay
File under: Refined Latin beats for the dancefloor and lounge.
Format: Bootleg MP3.
Reason to keep it all: French dude here released an elegant collection of instrumental tracks with plenty of Caribbean and Brazilian sounds. Sophisticated listener, diggers and beat-heads will love it while the mainstream Latin crowd will continue to be indifferent because of the lack of recognizable catchy choruses.
Mixability: 100% DJ-oriented music.
Favorite track: "Zorbanissimo"
Available: Unknown.

11.- SANTULLO – Bajo Fondo Presenta
File under: Post-Electro-Tango-Rap?
Format: Bootleg MP3 but I wouldn’t mind paying for it.
Reason to keep it all: After years of defending their arch-nemesis Gotan Project, in 2009 I became the ultimate fan of everything Bajofondo.
Mixability: OK, maybe not all the tracks are DJ-friendly, but there are plenty of great moments for those who can understand the Spanish language and appreciate good lyricism.
Favorite track: “Quién”
Available: Unknown.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Major Cumbión!!!

I knew this might happen, right after I made the official selection for best videos of 2009, a new video better than all the rest comes out. This is Frikstailers (of Zizek Collective) first video, and it's fucking amazing, setting the bar really high for all neo-cumbia videos! I love it!

Major Lazer feat. Mr. Lexx & Santigold - Hold the Line (Frikstailers Remix) from Frikstailers on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best of 2009-Part 3: Top 11 Live Shows

Of course this list is limited to the shows I've been to, which unfortunately, for lack of budget, haven't been as many as I would've liked to. Also because, as you probably already read me complain, there are not that many Latin (but cool) music shows in the Bay Area to go to.

1) Bajofondo @ Bimbos: For the second continuous time, Bajofondo takes the best live show of the year! And honestly, sometimes I seriously think that they are so far ahead of everybody else that they should like retire or something for a couple of years, to let the others catch up. Nobody, and I mean, NOBODY in any kind of music from any other country in the Spanish-speaking half of the world, can put such an impressive show. They have it all, their amazing virtuoso skills, their experienced musician professionalism, the sophistication to please the snobs, the catchy melodies to please the rest, the electronic dance beats to make even your grandmother in a wheelchair dance and the rock attitude and incomparable energy that differentiate them from any other electronic-whatever fusion bands. If they come to your town, do not under any circumstance miss the opportunity to see them.
PS: I should also include in the top-11 the semi-private after show where Bajofondo, myself and a bunch of friends ended up cumbia jamming, but I'll skip because it's not fair to the rest to have them twice on the top-11.

2) Mexican Institute of Sound @ Red Devil Lounge: Yes, what you see in this picture actually happened! M.I.S.'s Camilo Lara falling down with his keyboard while DJ Juan Data in full costume plays the güiro and reveals his underwear... oh man, what a crazy night! Thank god I gave my camera to a friend because I was so fucking drunk that I barely remember some of that shit. All I know was that at some point I was almost naked on stage and the security brought me down and then I somehow woke up with a really bad hangover in my bed. Priceless.

3) Buraka Som Sistema @ Rickshaw Stop: You know how I was getting naked at the end of the M.I.S. show? Well, I so wished I could've done the same at this one! I was right in front of the stage and I spent almost the whole concert jumping like a crazy ecstasy kid covered in sweat and with a huge hard-on under my pants. Yup. And I wasn't drunk or on drugs. I was just extremely turned on by the music and that impossibly hotter woman they incorporated as a singer. I said it before and I say it again, Buraka Som Sistema is the coolest thing to ever come out from Portugal since... Brazil.

4) Bomba Estéreo @ La Peña: Talk about cool bands that became even cooler by adding a super hot girl to their line-up. These Colombians are the closest thing to a mainstream-crossover that came out of this whole neo-cumbia international movement and they so deserve to be where they're at. Li Saumet is an unbelievable performer, she can rap, and sing, and moan, and scream, and dance and do it with so much energy, and be so pretty at the same time... I know everybody, male and female, at some point during the show that night at La Peña tried to picture themselves having sex with her.

5) Boom Boom Kid @ SubMission: I might be all about cumbia and hip-hop, but when it comes to live shows, nothing compares to the raw energy of punk rock. And when it comes to punk rock, nobody gives such a show as this bilingual Argentine miniature Tazmanian devil called Boom Boom Kid. Every year he comes touring to the States during the otherwise depressing days between Halloween and Thanksgiving and his visit, with the promise of a great show that will make me feel 18 years old all over again, is the only reason I have to look forward to this season at the end of the summer.

6) Limp Wrist @ SubMission: Uruguayan hardcore living legend Martín Sorrondeguy was the singer of Los Crudos, the biggest Spanish-speaking band of the genre to come out of the US. Then he came out of the closet and formed Limp Wrist in San Francisco singing mainly in English. Now he's saying Limp Wrist have broken up and he has some new band that recently released a 7''... I don't remember their name. All I remember is that I saw them for the first time at their last show in SubMission and it was really good and it made me wish I went to see them live all the other times before that, but when a band is from your own town, you take them for granted and you say, oh well, there will be other chances to see them, next time...

7) Eric Bobo & Rhettmatic @ Element Lounge: Nacional Records artist Eric Bobo is not very well known amongst the Latin Alternative and that's a shame. The Cypress Hill and Beastie Boys percussionist is also the son of legendary Latin Funk percussionist Willie Bobo and in 2009 he released his first solo album that includes collaborations with big names like Toy Selectah and DJ Rhettmatic from the World Famous Beatjunkies DJ crew. On 4/20 after a Cypress Hill stoner show he and Rhettmatic gave an amazing show at Element Lounge where DJ and percussionist would battle in back-to-back routines, something I've never seen before and I wish I could see more often at hip-hop shows.

8) Sargento García & Curumin @ Sterngrove: What a great summer day! Riding bikes all accross the city with a group of good friends. Having a pick-nick at the park. Running into millions of friends. Meeting with a hot girl whom I ended up dating. Listening to modern Brazilian music and cumbias. If it wasn't for the foggy weather and the annoying Sterngrove Park security it would've been perfect.

9) Mextape, Reporte Ilegal, Nes and many others @ Dermafilia: I was involved in the Argentine underground hip-hop scene when it started emerging in 1996 and I'm very fond of those memories even though at that point most of the artists in the scene sucked, big time. In the past seven years I've been getting progressively further away from my underground hip-hop roots, while becoming more and more cynical about it and finding my new interest in cumbia music. Then my friend from Reporte Ilegal invited me to be guest DJ at a couple of his shows and all of a sudden I got sucked in an emerging underground hip-hop scene of Spanish-speaking immigrants coming out of the Bay Area very similar to the one I escaped from. I guess it was the familiarity between this scene and my nostalgic memories of '96 what got my interest first, but then I realized that I wasn't as far away as I thought from these guys, they all had something in common: they all wanna rhyme over cumbia beats, many of them are trying, none of them have recorded anything decent yet. So that night at Dermafilia after they all did their rap sets, I got on the turntables and I started spinning some neo-cumbia instrumental tracks and they all went nuts freestyling over those beats. Most of them are still in a beginners stage, but I can tell there will be some dope artists coming out from this new scene and I'm proud to be part of it.

10) Babasónicos @ The Independent: For the third time in my life I DJ'd as opening act for Babasónicos and this was the first time my name was in the flyer, yay! That was a huge deal for me because I was their biggest fan back in '94/'95, during their weirdo ultra-kitsch experimental period. Now they are massive in Latin America but here in the US they come and nobody really knows them, so they play in smaller venues for much smaller audiences and they get wacky beginners like myself as opening acts, something that would never ever in a million years happen back home. Anyway, I was so happy after my set that I didn't pay any attention to their show, and that's why they didn't leave a big impression in me this time around and they only made it to the tenth position.

11) Kinky @ Outside Lands: I've seen Kinky live more than any other band in this decade, and not because they force me to (like it usually happens with Los Amigos Invisibles) but because I used to really like them, live. From 2002 to 2006 they always came up first in my Top-11 live shows of the year (in my previous, now defunct, Spanish-written blog). The last few albums... I didn't feel them that much, in fact, you know what? I didn't really like any album after their first one because they became too pop-song-oriented, while their debut was more tracks-for-DJs-based and that's why I fell in love with them in the first place (and at that point in my life it was a big deal to fall in love like that with a Mexican band because for years I said that all Mexican music was wack). Anyway, regardless of their formulaic latest outputs, they always managed to provide an amazing live show, the type of show that when you are watching you are actually wishing you were part of the band because they seem to have so much fun on stage! Well, the last couple of times I've seen them, they appeared to be playing in automatic pilot, not so fun anymore after these many years, but still, compared to the lame-ass Latin acts they competed with at Outside Lands (Nortec was so weak!), they managed to be one of the highlights of the festival and made it -barely- to the Top-11.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best of 2009-Part 2: Top 11 Videos

Ok, so here are my favorite and most viewed videos of 2009. I put this list together with the only rule of not repeating any song from my previous Top-11. That’s the only reason why Bomba Estéreo’s “Fuego” is not here, because it should definitely be there right at the top, but like I said before, it has been posted way too many times on this blog.
1) Ana Tijoux – “1977”: I love this girl, no doubt, and I love her music. But this video blew my mind! I wouldn’t be shy to state that this is the best hip-hop video by a Latin American artist that I’ve seen so far.
2) Systema Solar – “Bienvenidos”: I wanna move to northern Colombia. Cumbia made me develop a fetish for this particular part of the world, this video confirmed it. Part of this song was featured in my Linyerismo Episode II mixtape, back when most people outside Colombia haven’t yet heard of this group. The video came out a lot later and secured them a position on the international neo-cumbia map as the new Bomba Estéreo (sans the hot girl). Now there’re rumors of Nacional Records signing them...
3) Mood Fu & Niña Dioz – “Boom Bap”: This was the first time ever I posted a video on The Hard Data just by itself, with no story. Somebody sent me the link on Facebook, I watched it and I was like wow, I have to share this shit with everybody right now. At that moment I only knew Niña Dioz for references of Toy Selectah who mentioned her as some of the best new-school hip-hop in Mexico and I didn’t know anything about Mood Fu, a group I became a huge fan since and I’m eagerly expecting their debut album.
4) DJ Raff - “Soulstreets”: The best Latin American hip-hop DJ. Period. Raff never ceases to amaze me with his creativity, a true beat master. ‘Nuff said.
5) Brownout – “Slinky”: People usually ask me if I wear a Mexican wrestler mask while I DJ because I'm a fan of Lucha Libre and honestly, I've never, not even once, watched a Lucha Libre match on TV. But I LOVE those 70's Mexploitation movies. Oh yeah... that's pure kitsch gold.
6) Alika & Nueva Alianza – “Dem Got No Love”: I already posted this video here before. I know Alika personally since 1996 and she’s mad cool. Honestly I was a bit disappointed when she moved away from her early rap-rock-fusion experiments with Actitud María Marta to become a rastaffarian reggae toaster a la Fidel Nadal, but when she started fucking around with cumbia beats, I fell in love with her all over again. This video has it all, cumbia accordeon, villa culture, graff, b-girls and Chacarita (my favorite soccer team).
7) Emicida – “Triunfo”: São Paulo is one of my favorite cities in the world and it’s the hip-hop capital of Brazil. Nowadays everybody knows about Rio De Janeiro’s Baile Funk phenomenon because British DJ’s made it blow up worldwide, but the real shit when it comes down to conscious hip-hop with tight beats and dope verbal skills is always in São Paulo.
8) El B / Los Aldeanos – “La Naranja Se Picó”: Cuban MC’s are the best lyricists in political rap in the Spanish Language. Los Aldeanos are the best from the best. There aren't too many rap videos produced in Cuba (for obvious reasons) so this one is sort of a rarity.
9) Frescolate & Arias - “Evolución Constante”: This is 100% b-boy purist shit. It’s all about skills show off and clever word play with zero crossover appeal. I grew out of that formula a long time ago, but back in the nineties, I would’ve been totally down for a track like this. I know Frescolate since 1997 when he was one of the most remarkable b-boys in Buenos Aires underground scene (we both have cameos on the same rap video from back then), not satisfied with his dancing rep, he decided to pick up the mic in the new millennium and soon became the best freestyler, not only of Argentina, but of the whole continent. This is his first pro video and when it came out early this year it made me really happy to see that he has gone so far.

10) Latin Bitman & Francisca Valenzuela – “Help Me”: More Chilean DJ’s making it to the top-11. This one wasn’t my favorite track from Bitman’s great new album but I guess they chose it as the first single because of the singing girl who, I assume, is well known in Chile, although I’ve never heard of her. Anyway, the beat is great and it is ranking ten and not higher only because she sings in English and I’d rather she have done it in Spanish instead.
11) Shakira – “Loba”: Oh well, the 11th position is always reserved for the guilty pleasure of the year, as a sort of bonus track. In this case the decision was obvious. Do I need to enumerate the reasons? Yeah, you got it, it’s not about the song... at all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best Of 2009-Part 1: Top 11 Songs in DJ Juan Data's Set.

Yes, it's that horrible time of the year again. Time to kick-start the season of the always annoying, pointless and redundant Best Of The Year lists. So, as I did last year, this first Top-11 of 2009 is for the new songs I played the most in my DJ sets during the past twelve months.

1) “Fuego” by Bomba Estereo: This was the very first new hit of 2009. I found out about it in January, downloaded it and right away and started playing it at almost every gig. Nacional Records for some reason delayed the official release until later in the summer and then the video came out and... boom! Everybody was talking about it and everybody had a crush on Li Saumet after their performances in SXSW and LAMC. In my Billboard piece I predicted it was going to be the first neo-cumbia crossover, and guess what, it ended up being the music for a Mc Donald’s TV commercial!
Unfortunately the song doesn’t work as well in the parties as I hoped. I thought it was going to be an instant smash and make the dancefloor go crazy, I thought it was pop and catchy enough to please the mainstream top-40 Latino dancers, but somehow, for some odd reason, they are not getting it. That doesn’t mean that I’m gonna stop insisting. It has a great cumbia beat that’s irresistible for DJ’s and you can easily blend it with almost anything. Bomba Estereo is the best thing to come out of Colombia in a long time and that’s saying a lot since Colombia is an infinite source of amazing music.
Note: This is the third, yes, third time I post this video on this blog!

2) “El Campanero (Remix)” by Aniceto Molina: This has been around for a while now but I discovered it in 2009 when it was included in the neo-cumbia compilation Arriba La Cumbia, released in Europe, in sale in the US as import. I downloaded it so I don’t have the liner notes, hence I don’t know who did the remix but I’ve been playing it non-stop all throughout 2009 with great response from all types of crowds, alternative and mainstream. There’re two problems with this remix though, the intro is way too long and the beat tempo is not constant which makes it harder to blend. Otherwise, it’s a great song and people love it. There’s a remix of the remix, done in Argentina by DJ Toty with some Tego Calderón’s vocals, even better!

3) “El Toma Soli (remix)” by La Liga: This is a cumbia villera from Argentina that I’ve been playing also at every gig during 2009 and it works equally well on the alternative and mainstream crowds. I also included a bit of it in Linyerismo Episode I. The rhythm is irresistible even for the Anglo crowd and the sing-along chorus catches on the Spanish speakers right away, even if they don’t know the song. La Liga are not yet crossover popular even among Argentine community but the singing (mix of soccer hooligan chanting and Los Pericos’ Bahiano signature vocal style) sounds strangely familiar, plus the lyrics are quite good (their cover of the classic tango joint “Se Dice De Mi” is equally amazing). I haven’t heard any other DJ’s around playing this one yet, so it kinda became my signature joint of 2009.

4) “Bus Estación” by Los Labios: I mentioned this one a few times before on this blog, so by now I assume everybody downloaded it, since it’s a freebie. Los Labios was my happiest discovery of the year and this song is beautiful and addictive. It gave me goose bumps the first time I heard it and every time I have a chance I play it. It doesn’t really work very well with the mainstream crowd though. It’s not a DJ oriented track, it doesn’t have any good break to make easier blending, but the rhythm is catchy enough to play the whole track if you have the right audience. I hope somebody from the Zizek Collective will do a good remix of it.

5) “El Sonidito” by Hechizeros Band: The biggest crossover hit so far of that bizarre thing Mexicans call Pasito Duranguense. This shit is fucking ridiculous! It’s just a cheap keyboard played with two fingers and some percussion plus a guy making corny announcements on top. That’s it. I first thought this was just for taquería workers but then I heard Disco Shawn playing it at Tormenta Tropical and the crowd of gringo hipsters was going berserk. So, next time I tried it at a big party with snobby upscale top-40 listening Latinos and the response was surprisingly positive, although I got many weird looks from my friends like “you... playing THIS?” because they all know how I openly despise and make fun of all Mexican chunty music. But hey, if it works it works and this track does it. There’s a remix with reggaetoneros Angel & Khriz that works even better.

6) “International Love” by Fidel Nadal: Back in the mid 90’s Fidel had a hand full of crossover hits with his band Todos Tus Muertos (and as a guest toaster in Manu Chao's band Mano Negra). Then he broke off from that group and went solo to focus in his newly found rastafarian faith, leaving his punk attitude behind. The reggae crowd in Argentina embraced him, but he released like a hundred albums during this new phase without one decent hit... until now. With the auto-tuned “International Love” Fidel went back to the ears of the mainstream causing plenty of accusations of selling out by the orthodox reggae followers. True, the song is idiotic to the max, most of the lyrics don’t make any sense (which triggered many parodies) but still, from a DJ perspective at least it’s a great track, especially in the super hyper Toy Selectah remix.

7) “Hay Guey” by Tzochitl Soundsystem vs Toy Selectah: In 2009 the former Control Machete DJ has been more active than ever with the release of his Mad Decent compilation of remixes and the even more amazing Bersa Discos vinyl EP that includes this excellent neo-cumbia track. I have no fucking idea who that impossible-to-spell-whatever-Soundsystem is, and I won’t even bother googling it because it already gave me a headache to type it here this one time. That’s ok, all you need to know is that “Hay Guey” (which should actually be spelled “Ay güey” in proper Spanish, but who cares? It’s cumbia! Right?) is the “La Mara Tomaza” of 2009. Remember how El Hijo De La Cumbia’s “La Mara Tomaza” (which was spelled with an “s” on ZZK Sound Vol. 1 but with a “z” on Hijo’s debut album, but once again, who cares, besides crazy me?) was the best instrumental neo-cumbia of 2008? I don’t know if “Guey” beats “Mara” but they certainly go side by side in the irresistible make-everyfuckingbody-dance category.

8) “Nada de Nada” by Farmacia: I have a thing for late 80’s and early 90’s synth-pop. It was like a hidden guilty pleasure for a long time but I became vocal about it in the last couple of years. In 2009 I’ve been resident DJ at a weekly night at a bar in San Francisco that tried to appeal to the gay and/or gay friendly Latino crowd. Now, according to the music they play at the clubs that niche crowd goes, they must have the most horrible music taste in the world, Thalía, Paulina Rubio, Fey... yikes! In my imaginary parallel universe however, Latin gays are hip and listen to cool synth-pop en español like Miranda, Belanova, Leo García or this song by Farmacia. So that’s what I played at that bar and of course they didn’t come, but I had a lot of fun trying. This song, which I discovered thanks to the great movie “Los Paranoicos,” was also included in my mixtape Linyerismo Episode II mashed up with a cumbia beat.

9) “Cartagena” by Sonido Del Príncipe: If there was such a thing as The Hard Data Awards, Sonido del Príncipe would’ve definitely been nominated for Best New Neo-Cumbia artist and would have won the award for Best Non-Latino Producer To Fuck Around With Cumbia. This Dutch motherfucker came out from nowhere and beat the Latinos in their own game. He released a bunch of tracks during 2009, most of them mash-ups, all of them amazing. This one was included in ZZK Sound Vol.2 and from a DJ point of view is the best track of the comp. I look forward for Bersa Discos putting out a vinyl EP of his tracks.

10) “DJ DJ” by Zion-I: This electro DJ anthem is just irresistible. I loved Zion-I since I first discovered them in ’99 but none of their albums since their debut has been as exciting as The Take Over, released in 2009. It includes this awesome club banger with bilingual lyrics by guest MC Deuce Eclipse (thus, it qualifies as Latin and can be considered for this ranking) and like any 130BPM electro track, it’s great to mix and blend and remix live. I held an electro-oriented club night for lesbians during the first half of this year and this song was frequently chosen as a set opener and many times I even played twice throughout the night.

11) “Calle Ocho (I know you want me)” by Pitbull: I don’t think it’s necessary to clarify that I obviously despise this fucking Miami gusano douchebag almost as much as I hate Daddy Yankee. But in the exact same way that sometimes I’d play some Daddy Yankee songs because, from a strictly functional point of view, they always work with almost every crowd, I’ve been forced many times to throw this one in my sets during the summer season of 2009. Now you know that I’m a music snob and as such, I should be hating all cheap, cheesy, annoying summer hits, but hey, sometimes as a DJ you have to play for a crowd of mostly drunken horny retards with the music taste of a 13 year old Catholic school girl and you feel uninspired and bombarded by their idiotic requests and oh well, you gotta throw the fucking Pitbull song, why? Because it works. Simply as that.
Note to DJs and producers: I’ve been mashing it up live with Palenke Soultribe’s “Celosa” and it matches perfectly, especially since the chorus melody is almost the same. Somebody should make a remix out of that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BANG DATA-Maldito Carnaval (Rockolito Music, '09)

Oh man! Call me old school, but for me there's nothing like getting free CD's on the mail! Back in the day, during the peak of my music journalist career, I was getting about 20 new CD's every week in my mailbox. Now that's a great perk for such a low-paying job.
I know, the CD is a walking-dead format, and there's no more point in spending lots of money sending CD's for review consideration when you can just forward a link for the journalist to download the album free... and it's more environmentally conscious!
But what can I say? I just love getting surprise free stuff on the mail. It just makes me happy! Especially when it comes from friends of mine like the guys of Bang Data!
And no, we are not related by blood. But of all the people who came out in recent years going by the name Data (DataRock, Data MC, datA, Fat Data, Bunk Data, Data Raper, Data Leak, Data Archiv, Data Hero, Data Dog, etc. and yes, those are all real names) Bang Data are... the second best! You see, I still hold the first place because mine is my real name, no alter-egos needed when your parents name you like this!
Anyway, Bang Data appeared early last year in the San Francisco's Bay Area scene and I isntanly approached them with the idea that we should do some shows together because of the whole "Too Much Data" gimmick that would look great on the flyers. We did end up sharing stage in a couple of occasions, so I'm very familiar with their impressive live show commanded by the talentous bilingual rapper/singer Deuce Eclipse, whom I know since 2001, when I fisrt met him doing backing vocals for local hip-hop legends Zion-I.
I've been a huge fan of Zion-I since their very first single, so big respects to Deuce Eclipse who can really control the mic and is equally good rhyming and singing in both English and Spanish. For this new project the Nicaraguan MC stepped momentarily away from hip-hop to enter the lurid realms of Latin fusion when joining Juan Manuel Caipo, drummer of rock-en-español band Orixa (often confused with Cuban rappers Orishas) and two other guys in guitar and bass. The result is Bang Data, an eclictic mix of rock with rap, plus reggae and yes, cumbia!
For their debut album they put together seven tracks, showing all the diverese styles they can accomplish. The best one is hands down the opener (named after the band): a contagious cumbia-rap in the style of Ozomatli, where instead of the traditionally dominant güiro sound they include some batucada style drum breaks curiously similar to the ones on Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' classic "Matador".
The rest of the tracks are also pretty good but nothing I'd actually spin in my DJ sets. The album closes with an odd cover of Piero's classic cheeseball "Mi Viejo" recontextualized in rap shape. I demand more cumbia from Bang Data and more free CD's from everybody else!

Buy it here or here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ANARKIA TROPIKAL-Kumbia Not Dead (Independent, 2009)

When I did that neo-cumbia post last month describing the many characteristics that distinguish this genre from its Colombian ancestor (which many readers misunderstood as categories) I left out one other factor that I think was fundamental in de development of new school cumbia: the punk attitude.
Originally I was going to include it in my post, but in the end I decided to leave it out because I didn't have enough examples and because the punk-cumbia connection has been there for a long time before the whole neo-cumbia phenomenon kicked off in this decade.
Cumbia and punk rock go hand in hand because of the easy accessibility of the genres which makes them ideal for up-and-coming D.I.Y. musicians with little to no training. Cumbia's lack of sophistication in its constant rhythm and simple lyrics structures was essential for the genre to spread so fast throughout the whole continent amongst the poor classes. And way before hip-hop and electronic music production became accessible to the marginal youth in Latin America, punk rock was there voicing their teenage angst and rebellion.
Kumbia Queers might be the best known kumbia-punk group nowadays for the fans of neo-cumbia, but before them, lots of other punk rockers in Latin America had crossed over to the cumbia camp. One of the most remarkable examples of this in Argentina was Agrupación Mamanis, a kumbia side-project of anarko-punk band Las Manos De Filippi, which in the nineties surprisingly hit the charts with the now classic "El Himno Del Cucumelo" (a remix/tribute album to this band is currently in the making, more info coming soon...).
Following that same sort of approach to cumbia with "k" we have Anarkia Tropikal, from Chile.
Now Chilean cumbia in general, and Chilean neo-cumbia in particular, are a complete mystery to me. Of course I'm familiar with Chilean cumbia hero Chico Trujillo and a few others here and there, and it's also undeniable the influence of Argentinean cumbia (and cumbia villera) on the other side of the Andes. We also know about German neo-cumbia pioneer Señor Coconut who made his first experiments with the genre Chile. And we know that Chile has arguably the richest Spanish hip-hop scene in the continent (my favorite MC and my favorite DJ are Chilean: Anita Tijoux and DJ Raff, respectively). Now if we were to put all those ingredients together in a blender, the result should be a flourishing Chilean neo-cumbia scene comparable to the Argentinean, Mexican or Colombian. But if that in fact exists, I have yet to find it.
So far, I'm happy to find Anarkia Tropikal with their goofy lo-fi rebellious cumbias that remind me at times of Mexico's El Gran Silencio and Argentina's Todos Tus Muertos or Bersuit but take it to unexpected extremes indulging into some anxiety-inducing trash-metal and hardcore-techno moments. There are no cool breaks to sample and no catchy tunes to play at the parties, so my DJ interest in this album is almost inexistent, but it does make me laugh at times when I listen to it (clever moments like "Bachelet rhymes with Pinochet"), especially in the skits. Ideal as background music to have while reading The Clinic.

Download FREE here.