Monday, August 31, 2009

Dermafilia Art Show 8/29/09 in the Mission, SF

Longest post ever! This video is over 4 hours long!!! It's the uncut recording of a crazy ass party held last Saturday right here in the heart of the Mission District, San Francisco, at a tattoo parlor called Dermafilia. Almost every single Spanish speaking MC in town performed that day, some English speakers too, lots of freestyle, some punk rock en español and if you fast forward till right at the very end (3:57 aprox) you'll get to see DJ Juan Data spinning cumbia with live band and MC's freestyling on top. Unfortunately the video only shows the first few minutes of that performance, which was the last act of the night, but you'll be able to get an idea of how we get down in the Latin underground of San Francisco, CA, mixing cumbia and hip-hop!!!

PS: If you are patient and you have a lot of time to waste and you wanna watch the whole thing, you'll also find the unmasked Juan Data dropping some rhymes on the cipher somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BROWNOUT-Aguilas And Cobras (Six Degrees, '09)

Man, I miss the good old times when I was getting horrible commercial crap from Machete Records to review almost every week. The cynical spirit of this blog was set by those classic rants. Nowadays all the music people send me for free is actually pretty good and it's hard to make fun of it. Especially with seriously good music like this one here.
My friend at Six Degrees sent it to me last night and I was like, whoa! Where this shit came from? Then I read the press release (something I almost never do before reviewing an album because I don't want it to affect my first impressions) and guess what? This shit came out from Texas!
Yeah, you know that state full of assholes and women with too much make-up that we all like to make fun of? That's right. There seems to be quite a lot of cool Latinos doing really cool music in that piece of shit state. At least a lot more than in Florida, another southern state that we constantly make fun of for similar reasons. In fact, when it comes to new school cumbia, the history of the genre in the US should probably start in Texas. True, it became hipster-cool later on in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, but Texans where playing and experimenting with cumbia since way before. And I'm not only referring to DJ's like DJ Dus and Panik or bubblegum-pop-proto-neo-cumbia stars Los Kumbia Kings, I'm talking about live bands like Grupo Fantasma.
Like Toy Selectah once said while we were having Vietnamese food in The Mission with Disco Shawn from Bersa Discos, "Grupo Fantasma is the best cumbia band in the US right now... they even play back-up band for Prince!" And it's true, they are pretty pretty good.
The thing is the whole idea of having a cumbia band touring with Prince really fucked with my brains. How is that possible? But, hey, it was true, and then I kept thinking, well, if they can play some kick ass funk for that midget freak, they can probably play some kick ass funk by themselves too, and they probably play a lot of that while they are in the rehearsal studio and they think "hey, this shit is so good, but we can't play it live as Grupo Fantasma because cumbiancheros won't get it".
So, yeah, they came out with an alter-ego! Grupo Fantasma goes into the funky phone-booth and comes out disguised as Brownout, the ultimate Latin funk super band! I'll have this album on heavy rotation in my Ipod for the next week or so. You should check it out too but you're warned, don't expect any cumbias here. This is pure old school deep Latin soul funk, the type that Fania Records would be putting out if they still existed. Go Texas!

Available on emusic, itunes, amazon, etc.

Friday, August 21, 2009

CHERMAN - Superpuesto (Free Download)

Not like we really needed more people making cumbia mash-ups, they are pretty much all over the world already, but hey, surprisingly enough there wasn't much done in Spain with this hybrid genre. Cherman lives in the mestizaje world capital, Barcelona, so it makes sense that he pioneers the neo-cumbia movement over there, specially considering he's another fellow Argentine expat.
Back in the nineties he was deeply involved in Buenos Aires underground scene, he used to publish a street circus magazine and host an alternative music radio show. I happen to have contributed to both those projects, so I know Cherman pretty well and I miss him (sniff, sniff), so it made me really happy to reunite recently with him through the Internet and find out that we've been both playing with cumbia in very similar ways.
But the truth is Cherman was years ahead of mine in cumbia appreciation. Back when I used to dismiss the entire genre for considering it corny and unworthy of my refined ears, he was managing this anarko-punk collective called Las Manos de Filippi and/or Agrupación Mamanis who played Cumbia With Attitude in Buenos Aires' underground back in the days when cumbia had absolutely NO underground credibility (mid-nineties that's it). They even had a crossover hit called "El Himno del Cucumelo" (which I still play at almost every party and somebody should be remixing it soon... Cherman?). That song entered history as an actual backwards crossover because being a cumbia played by rockers, it crossed from the rock scene to the traditional cumbia scene with huge success and there are plenty covers of that song around (the most famous ones by Rodrigo and by Adrián y los Dados Negros). So even then, when we were friends and colleagues with Cherman and we used to hang out on a weekly basis, whenever he tried to make me listen to this band he was managing, I payed zero attention because it was cumbia and I was too busy with my own hip-hop purism. Guess who was right?
One of the musicians from Agrupación Mamanis is now very well known in the Buenos Aires neo-cumbia scene as Lucas Luisao of Army of Dub, a dubstep pioneer in his own right. His influence is evident in Cherman's mixes. Download it and check it out.


Friday, August 14, 2009

DJ ROGER MÁS 7''s (Club Unicornio, '09)

So you thought that the only people playing cumbia mash-ups and releasing vinyl records in San Francisco were Oro11 and Disco Shawn from Bersa Discos? You were wrong my friend. Because even before them there were these other two Latin-music-loving gringos named DJ Roger Más and El Kool Kyle who host the weekly party El Superritmo. They might not get all the cool hipster buzz that the Bersa guys get but they have done some equally interesting stuff in the last couple of years and deserve to be recognized.
Last night I was supposed to DJ with Roger Más at his new weekly party called Oyelo! and I totally forgot. I was DJing somewhere else and I got totally drunk because they only payed me with drinks, yeah I'm a cheap whore sometimes. So at the end of my gig I decided to walk by Roger's party just to say hi and show my support because he was just a couple of blocks away. When I got there I saw him all by himself and I know he usually has good guests, so I asked him "so... it's just you tonight?" and he's like "no, it's you and me". Holy fuck! I hate flaking on people, I never do that, so I ran home, grabbed my shit and came back. It turned out, the few people that were at the party, by the time I came back were all gone, so I basically just played for Roger, his friend and the bartender.
That was my one way to show him some love and avoiding feeling guilty for the rest of the week. My other way is by writing a good review of his two 7'' vinyl releases under local label Club Unicornio (I need to research more about these label, apparently they published some shit by master-digger DJ Lengua which I bet it's pretty cool too).
For starters, you already know 7 inch vinyl is by far my favorite format in the whole music universe, so even if the songs sucked (which fortunately they don't) I'd give them a positive review, like I did with Shakira a couple of posts below. I don't know what is it that I like so much about 7'' records; is it that they're tiny and I'm like one of those stupid girls who think everything mini is "cute"? is it that they are portable, they don't weight a ton and they don't waste space with a bunch of tracks when you only gonna play one from that record anyway? or is it their glory-hole-size holes that subconsciously remind me of my porn years?
The thing is Club Unicornio released the first one of this two, the green one, a few months ago, and the orange one just came out recently and is still not available for purchase but will be soon. You should buy them both but I definitely like the green one better. It has a song called "Cumbia Bonita" that sounds more like a mambo with electro and I'll be most definitely including in one of my future mixes. The orange one has two versions of the same track that are way too similar, which is sort of like a waste of grooves because it'd be much nicer to have two different songs or at least a remix done by other artists. Anyway, like I said before, you need to buy them both, even if it's just to support the initiative of small independent labels who put a lot of effort in keeping vinyl alive.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DIGGING: Chico Che & La Crisis - 1986

After last weeks triumphal experience, I went digging yesterday for old vinyls again and I'm really happy about it. Not only about my incredible multiple finds, but also about the fact that I bought actual records. You see, since I became a laptop DJ three years ago, I've been downloading music like crazy, trolling through blogs, and music-sharing programs and my favorite music store, and as a result of this, vinyl became kind of obsolete. Recently, I've reunited with my original love for vinyl collecting, not so much for playing at my parties but more for looking for obscure breaks to sample. I still don't know if I wanna start "producing" tracks or just use those samples within my mixtapes like I've done with the Linyerismo series. Well see...
Anyway, what I love about vinyl digging is that sometimes you don't know what the fuck you're buying. It's not like when you download a song and you can listen to it first or you just download it anyway and if you don't like it you just delete it. Digging for vinyl is a whole mysterious art in itself. Sometimes you look at the cover of the album and you can't figure out what the fuck it is and the only way to find out is to purchase it, take it home and listen to it.
Among the many rarities I found digging yesterday there was this album by Mexican cumbia artist Chico Che whom I've never heard of before. I bet some Mexican readers are a lot more familiar with him than I am. The thing I love the most about my blog is that I can totally expose my absolute ignorance about some topics, something that I'm not allowed to do when I write professionally for other magazines or websites. Here I feel comfortable saying I have no fucking idea who this guy is. So if you happen to know more, please share the data (wink, wink) because I wasn't able to find much on the web.
Of course what struck me first of this album was the absolutely ridiculous cover photo. Can you fucking believe that shit? That's fucking insane! This bus-driver-looking guy is actually smelling his own armpit, jeez! The Mexican mustache, the haircut, those glasses! So intriguing! Then there was the name, Chico Che. I found that Mexicans love nicknames that start with "Ch" (like all the characters in Chespirito) but Che is more of an Argentinian slang. Double intriguing! With that name, in my imagination he was halfway between my friend and master digger Chico Sonido and Chilean cumbia superstar Chico Trujillo. And I wasn't too far! And then to top it all, the title: Las Playas Nudistas (The Nudist Beaches). How could anybody resist buying this?
The album single is a hilarious cumbia about going to nudist beaches to check out the girls and that took me to a completely unexpected new level of interpretation. You see, I'm sort of a nudist myself when it comes to beaches (if you live in San Francisco you know where to find me on warm weekends if you ever wanted to see me naked) and the one thing that bugs me the most about nudist beaches over here is the overabundance of fully-dressed Mexicans just walking around looking at the naked women. Not that they bother me directly but they have a negative effect on the female concurrence to the beach. I had female friends of mine who told me "I'd happily go to the nudist beach if it wasn't for the Mexicans staring at you". And I want to see more titties around so you Mexicans stop lurking, get naked or get the fuck out!
So this cumbia by Chico Che came to confirm an actual recurrent behavior that seems to be quite common among people who look exactly like Chico Che and his band, La Crisis, and it wasn't an ignorant racist stereotype of mine. Hence, here's are my questions for you my beloved Mexican readers: 1) Can you tell me more about this character Chico Che? and 2) Why don't you get naked when you go to nudist beaches?

Download: Chico Che - Las Playas De Nudistas