Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SFDK - Siempre Fuertes 2 (SFDK Records, '09)

Aw, more hip-hop nostalgia... I was just talking about going back to '99 in my previous post and then, wham! SFDK drops this bomb!
I remember very clearly that afternoon of '99 when I went to Apolo Novax (of Koxmoz) appartment to listen to a CD he had recently received, SFDK's debut album, Siempre Fuertes.
At that point we didn't know much about this duo from Sevilla, but we agreed on something, 1) they had some kick-ass lyrics, 2) the voice of the MC sucks, seems too unreal, 3) the guests shine more than the hosts, specially two of those guests: a new girl by the name of La Mala María (later known for her last name, Rodríguez) and Violadores del Verso front-man Kase-O. Ten years later I can still remember every syllable pronounced by those two guests in their mind-blowing verses; I have quoted them so many times...
Later in 2003, when SFDK released their third album, 2001 Odisea En El Lodo, I finally got to meet them personally during their short visit to Los Angeles, CA to promote it (even though it was never released here). Oh man, we had some great times digging at Amoeba Records and walking around Venice Beach (I even have a short cameo in their 2007 documentary DVD Black Book shot during that walk). 2001 Odisea En El Lodo is, until this day, their very best album and if you ask me, one of the top 5 hip-hop albums ever recorded in the Spanish language worldwide. By then the MC, Zatu, had left behind his embarrassingly exaggerated vocal tone of the beginnings and found comfort in rhyming with his real voice and both lyrics and beats were at the highest peak of creativity and skills. As a whole, the albums is the closest you could expect to perfection, with no filler tracks and wisely selected collaborations. That was the album that put SFDK where they are now, at the very top of the Spanish hip-hop scene with a well deserved (and hard to achieve) combination of commercial success (while being independent) and respect from the hardcore b-boys.
In 2009, for their sixth LP, SFDK decided to look back to their origins and pay homage to their debut album by releasing a second part, Siempre Fuertes 2. More than a marketing scheme, or an intent to copy Jay-Z's Blueprint 2, 3..., this is actually a reference to movie sequels, something that Zatu, a confessed fan (and collector) of Hollywood cinema has made more than excplicit in many of his songs. So, Siempre Fuertes 2 is not them trying to be the SFDK of Siempre Fuertes all over again, or to update the style and topics from back then, instead is a continuation (and even at times a critical exploration of their roots).
Does it work? Yes, most of the time. Zatu's rhymes and Acción Sánchez beats are always tight, no doubt. But after a while, it got a little bit repetitive. Many concepts that I've already heard before... Plus there are a few tracks that absolutely suck, "El" with All Day Green, "El Séquito" (worst chorus ever!) and particularly "Vívelo" with Pinnacle Rockers (this one is just plain horrible, reminds me of commecial reggaetón in both the production and the singing).
But besides those mistakes, the album over all is still great, with some instant classics that all SFDK fans will love like the battle track "Vs." the single "S.E.V.I.L.L.A." and "30" and it's way better than almost anything else in Spanish rap.
If you never listened to SFDK, I suggest you start with Odisea En El Lodo, Los Veteranos or 2005 instead. If you already know them, you know what to expect and you definitely want this to complete your collection. And all of you fuckers who look down on Spanish rap because it's all ignorant and "ghetto" but like Calle 13 "because of their smart lyrics," do yourself a favor and listen to Zatu who kicks Residente's ass all the way from Spain to Puerto Rico.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SACANDO AGUA DEL DESIERTO (Sudametrica, '09)

There seems to be this sort of idealization of a hip-hop era of greatness and purity, over ten years ago, right before hip-hop became THE mainstream commercial pop music of the world. Some point out to it as a
second golden age for the movement (the first one being 1988-89) when the Wu-Fam was still dope and Rawkus Records was everybody's favorite label. Then it all went downhill.
It was during those years when I was the most involved in underground hip-hop as a full time job, writing for magazines all over the world, running an indie label and distribution company, hosting a radio show and hanging out with this posse of talented unsigned artists called Séptimo Sentido. So yeah, I too tend to be nostalgic about that hip-hop, those raw dirty beats, those pretentiously serious long verses full of cryptic elaborate rhymes... and my buddies.
Since then, much has happened, I left Argentina and hip-hop purism behind while Septimo Sentido's founding members Mustafá Yoda and Koxmoz became the biggest and most relevant icons in Argentina's hip-hop, taking the game to a whole new level. Now this compilation directed by Mustafá is like a ten-years later class reunion of many of those cats (even Koxmoz's Apolo Novax sows up in two tracks) plus their disciples and acolytes, and they all seem to be stuck in time in 1999, or trying really hard to take things back to that year.
So, of course, for me and the people who lived those years, Sacando Agua Del Desierto has a lot of nostalgic value (I almost cried the first time when I heard them mentioning some of the places we used to hang out) but... could it have a similar effect on a younger crowd, or a crowd that found hip-hop much later, or a crowd outside of hip-hop? I doubt it.
This is the kind of rap music that's exclusively for hardcore rap listeners. Even the Latin Alternative crowd who enjoy of artists like La Maga Rodríguez or Orishas, will not get this at all. It does not have any sort of fusion or crossover appeal, and they don't need it because they've been doing it for years and it works out great for them. They are content being rappers who rap about hip-hop culture for other rappers to listen to. I grew out of that formula ages ago, and sometimes it even pisses me off like, "fuck, yet another song talking about the goddammed four elements, gimme a break!" But since many of these guys were my buddies and I haven't seen them in ages, for me is like revisiting a lost happy chapter of my past.
A separate mention for the beat production is well deserved. Unlike Mustafá's magnificent second solo effort, this album has in common the production rule that all the beat makers involved had to follow of exclusively sampling loops from Argentinean artists' vinyl records, all of them extremely rare old-school grooves. So even if the style of production reminds you of Wu-Tang and that gritty dark 90's New York sound, the results are still quite original.
So, if you are able to sit through long-ass verses of serious hip-hop preaching done by skillful MC's over mid-tempo undanceable beats, I suggest you get a copy of this. But if this is your introduction to the genre, don't waste your time, you won't get it.

Available here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

PANAMA! 3-Calypso Panameño, Guajira Jazz & Cumbia Tipica on the Isthmus 1960-75 (Sound Way, '09)

I used to be friends with this super hot Panamanian girl. Man, was she hot! Pretty face, blue eyes, full lips, perfect Brazilian butt, huge natural boobs, you get the idea, the whole package. Plus, she was a freak, but that's another story. The thing is I used to joke around with her and tell her she was the hottest Panamanian woman I've ever met and in response she would ask me "Really? Have you met any other Panamanian women?" to what my only possible answer was "Not really".
And it wasn't just me. This happened to her with every other guy who tried to hit on her; after noticing her exotic looks they'd all ask "So, where are you from?" and after she'd answer, their comeback usually was "Really? You don't look Panamanian!" which would take us back to the "And how many other Panamanian women have you met?" and they would suddenly realize that they didn't know any.
You see, pretty much the same thing happens with Panamanian music. Nobody outside of Panama knows shit about it. I mean, everybody knows that the origins of reggaetón have to be traced back to Panama, but even that is something that most people realized way too late in 2004, after reggaetón crossed over from Puerto Rico to the States and they recognized the familiarity of the beat like "hey, that sounds like that other stuff El General was doing back in the early nineties, doesn't it?".
So if you, like me, are totally clueless about Panamanian women, I mean music, I strongly suggest you pick up this collection of comps released by the fine UK label Sound Way. The most recent one is volume 3 and it has 22 track with plenty of never-before-released-abroad old Panamanian music including some salsa, calypso, and yes cumbia! Because cumbia's origins are as northern Colombian as they are Panamanian.
The second volume of this collection had a lot more cumbia though, but this one is still very interesting. It includes a couple of extremely familiar tunes sung by extremely unfamiliar names. Like the classic salsa "Llorarás" made popular by Oscar D'Leon, here in a much older version by Beby Castor con Los Juveniles, and also an early version of "La Negra Tomasa" with the weird title of "Bilongo" interpreted here by Papi Brandao y Sus Ejecutivos ("La Negra Tomasa" is the same cumbia that crossed over to the Latin American rock audience thanks to Los Caifanes and crossed over again to the neo-cumbia audience with the spectacular remix "La Mara Tomasa" by El Hijo De La Cumbia, among many other versions). I don't know if these are covers of even older songs (I thought the original "La Negra Tomasa" was Cuban) or are in fact the original versions, because unfortunately I don't have the physical record, hence, no liner notes.
However, the most interesting thing, for me at least, in this compilation were the bilingual calypso tracks where you can find the obvious Jamaican influences in the proto-reggae-toasting vocals (keep in mind this music is from 1960 to 1975) which have to be the direct ancestors of what later developed into Spanish raggamuffin and eventually reggaetón.
So, thank you Sound Way for putting together these amazing records. Now I can totally pretend to be an expert in Panamanian music and that might become handy if I ever meet another hot Panamanian woman.

Available in vinyl LP as an import (there's also a 7'' with bonus tracks!) and all the regular digital download websites.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

AMANDITITITA-La Descarada Vol.2 (Sony/BMG, '09)

I should first say that I really like the basic concept of Amandititita, potentially at least, the whole short-chubby-smart-Mexican-brunette acting like if she was a tall-white-brainless-blonde-diva... what a great original formula!
However, unfortunately, the results tend to be kinda disappointing. She's got the neo-cumbia ironic sense of humor and the kitsch factor right, but musically and lyrics-wise she's pretty mediocre. She has this one style of faux-rapping-sort-of-singing that works out OK with her limited vocal skills but she uses and reuses the exact same verse and chorus structures in all her songs, so it gets too repetitive. It's like, once you heard one song, you pretty much can predict all the others.
When it comes to her lyrics, she tries too hard to come out with witty rhymes, and sometimes they work out and make you laugh, but most of the time are simple, obvious and predictable. From someone who constantly brags about studying literature in college (as if that was such a great achievement!), I'd expect a lot more. Like I mentioned here before, sometimes when she goes for shock-value on her rhymes, she reminds me a little too much of Molotov, and that's not good. In fact, that's gross.
Production-wise, this new album sounds a lot better than her debut, La Reina De La Anarcumbia, and I'm not sure yet, but I might be mixing some of these tracks in the future (the title track is not bad at all). The thing is, these are not DJ-oriented productions, like most other neo-cumbia releases. She aims for the pop audience and in Mexico she's probably adored by teenage girls who pimp out their myspaces (still) and flamboyant gay guys in their twenties. But the beats have nothing remarkable, there's no digging involved, no cool breaks, no obscure sampled references, non of the stuff, we, beat-heads like. They pretty much sound like average Mexican pop-cumbia except for the song "Tu Bling Bling" which sounds more like average Mexican indie-pop.
Amandititita could've been the Lilly Allen of neo-cumbia but she ended up being more of a one-trick pony like Lil'Momma.

Available only in Mexico, maybe as an import abroad or as a bootleg in a few blogs...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

EL REMOLON-Pibe Cosmo B-Sides (ZZK Records, '09)

Since yesterday, El Remolón's official debut album, Pibe Cosmo, is available for digital purchase on emusic.com But I know most of you fuckers don't pay for downloads, that's why you come to this blog, expecting to find the bootleg link, right? So, instead of Pibe Cosmo, I'm gonna talk to you about Pibe Cosmo B-Sides which was posted yesterday on ZZK Records website for free download so all you cheap bastards can stop complaining.
I love El Remolón, not only because he's from my neighborhood, Caballito, which makes him instantly cool. But also because I share his view of cumbia and because his first release, Cumbia Bichera, in 2007 was like my introduction to all that amazing Zizek scene. If you listened closely to the three megamixes I published this year, they all have some Remolón in them, I think...
Anyway, I was talking about his view of cumbia and how he approaches it from his minimalist-electronica-IDM-mashup perspective. What I like about him, is like compared to the other more pretentious artsy neo-cumbia minimalists, El Remolón has a lot more of a sense of humor in the form of hipster irony, and besides acknowledging Colombian roots, he also makes fun of Argentine cumbia kitsch (his remix of Alcides' "Violeta") and he's not at all scared of flirting with (and deconstructing) pop standards (Madonna, Calle 13, MC Hammer), which makes him way more accessible for wider crowds.
Also from a DJ point of view, his tracks are really well constructed, really easy to mix and they usually leave a lot of black spaces (brakes) for DJ's manipulation, so even though he's not a DJ per se, he has a distinctive DJ mentality when producing. For all these reasons I tend to think that me and Remolón would get along very well as friends because we think very much alike. Our only difference is that he makes amazing music and I just talk shit.

Download Pibe Cosmo B-Sides HERE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Unnecessary Intent Of Intellectualizing Neo-Cumbia

Much has been said already in this blog about the cumbia’s new school (a.k.a. neo-cumbia, nu-cumbia or whatever you wanna call it). 2009 has been the year when this new hybrid genre finally crossed over getting lots of media exposure in mainstream publications, from CNN, to Billboard, to Yahoo news and every other specialized music rag. Now, with the genre living its apogee, and new artist popping out every day from the most unexpected corners of the planet, I think it’s time to start searching for aesthetic parameters that define this style and its variations or sub-genres. After all, that’s what we -music journalists- love doing, labeling things, framing them, setting standards, and that’s what separate us from our fellow musicians.

So, what makes an artist, or his music, neo-cumbia instead of just plain cumbia?


The Underground/D.I.Y. Ethics: Traditionally cumbia has always been a music genre for large orchestras signed to a very controlling record label and aiming for massive broadcasting. From assembly-line-type bands with matching outfits created in studio by a producer, to multi-generational large groups that changed members constantly, to interpreters singing other people’s music without giving credit to the authors, to even “artists” who were just a pretty face for the pictures and didn’t even sing or play any instrument, cumbia had very little underground credibility. When this new generation adopted cumbia as a genre, they did it from an opposite perspective, most of them are do-it-yourself bedroom producers working on a laptop and very few of them have a record deal, they have complete creative control over their music and they aim for a selective sophisticated audience rather than commercial radio play.

Find it in: Almost everybody mentioned in this article.


DJ Culture: There is no doubt that neo-cumbia as a genre owes most of its success to DJs, but DJs have been part of cumbia music since way before the neo-cumbia phenomenon started, from the mobile sound-systems in northern Colombia (“picós”), to the Mexican “sonideros”, to the DJs in Argentine “bailantas”. The main difference is that the new breed of cumbia DJs bring their knowledge and skills from other DJ-oriented music genres like hip-hop or electronica, so they have more of a focus on mixing techniques: blending, beat-matching, scratching, etc plus the digger mentality and a preference for the vinyl format. Traditional cumbia DJs spun mainly CDs and had very basic mixing skills if any, in fact, the average dancer at a sonidero party or bailanta would not expect the beats to be synchronized and the songs blended into one another; knowing when to press stop and play on a CD player were all the skills most DJ’s needed when mixing.

Find it in: Toy Selectah, DJ Panik, Oro11, Chico Sonido, DJ Dus, DJ Roger Más, DJ /Rupture, Mexican Dubwiser


The Hipster Factor: Keeping up with the newest coolest fashions and trends was never a cumbia thing. Cumbia, like most other world-beats, thrived in its own underworld unaware of the hipster fads and hipsters were too busy listening to indie-pop o avant-gard electronica. But then M.I.A. and Diplo came out as the new hip messiahs of the dacade and made global-ghettotech music the coolest new thing approved for hipster consumption. And cumbia (along with baile funk, kuduro and others) was among that new denomination. All of a sudden, college-age kids wearing fluorescent clothes and plastic sunglasses started dancing to this “new” thing called cumbia and eventually making their own.

Find it in: Alta Joya, Oro11, Disco Shawn, Douster, Los Labios, Frikstailers, M.I.S., Afrodita, Arcade


The Foreigner's P.O.V.: Dismissed by the locals in Latin America, cumbia was sort of discovered by Americans and Europeans traveling or living abroad. Foreigners had one main advantage for cumbia appreciation that locals lacked: they did not have all that baggage of social preconceptions. They just saw the music for what it was, a great catchy beat. They didn’t worry that it was considered music for maids and bus-drivers, that’s actually what made them like it even better. Plus, once the foreigners took cumbia back home to the first world and it became successful, native Latinos who were embarrassed to show their cumbia experiments in public, got the seal of approval and the encouragement necessary to come out and dance! Nowadays, there are neo-cumbia producers in the most random places like Netherlands or Australia, maybe Japan, and they all share that same unprejudiced vision of cumbia and that’s what makes them so fresh!

Find it in: Sidestepper, Up Bustle & Out, Señor Coconut, Dick El Demasiado, ElG, Oro11, Douster, Sonido del Príncipe, Cumbia Cosmonauts


The Iron(ic) Men: As I indicated many times in this blog during my record reviews, irony is a fundamental factor in most of new school cumbia and it’s, I think, what distinguish it from previous intents of updating or modernizing the genre. By irony I mean deconstructing and recontextualizing cultural elements previously considered “low-brow” with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor presenting them as “cool” and “hip”. In other words, when cosmopolitan middle-class young people borrow from cultural expressions (like cumbia) that used to be considered to belong exclusively to the undereducated working classes, even when they do actually enjoy the previously-forbidden-to-them music, their approach tends to exalt its kitsch elements... and that’s what makes it fun! The obscure pop-culture reference, the nostalgia of childhood mainstream products, the devotion to corny and tacky icons are all funny ironic elements when taken out of their traditional context, like when Oro11 spins record in front of a Virgen de Guadalupe beach towel while Disco Shawn passes cards with images of popular pseudo-deity Gauchito Gil at the Tormenta Tropical parties.

Find it in: Toy Selectah, M.I.S., Amandititita, Oro11, Disco Shawn, Bomba Estéreo, Villa Diamante, The Peronists, Fantasma, Chico Sonido, Dead Menems, Los Labios, Kumbia Queers, Afrodita, Fauna.


The Dance Music Approach: Above all other possible definitions, cumbia is basically a dance-oriented music genre. It’s not about the virtuoso musicians doing elaborate solos, is not about profound lyrics with witty rhymes that you need to listen with extra attention to decipher, it’s about making people dance, simple as that, and it manages to do so because its rhythm is quite irresistible. The main reason cumbia has gone from its hometown in Caribbean Colombia and Panamá to become the biggest Panamerican success from Mexico to Argentina and beyond, is its irresistible, catchy and, most importantly, easy to dance to beat (no need to take cumbia lessons!). No wonder electronic dance music producers from all over the world have been trying to grab that catchy beat and import it into the nightclubs dance floors. A lot of these current successful experiments with cumbia/house or cumbia/techno however, came from people who had very little or no connection at all with actual cumbia as a culture or scene, they just liked the beat, sampled it added a four-to-the-floor drum and made it into a track.

Find it in: Samim, Michel Cleis, Palov & Mishkin, Electro Tribal, Palenke Soultribe, Double Helix, Tovar, Harry Choo Choo Romero, Mo’ Horizoins, Frikstailers, etc.


The Thirdworldists: Maybe you don’t know this, but historically Latin American big-city youth have disregarded and rejected local folkloric music while closely following the standards of the cool set by the English-speaking world. With just a handful of exceptions, the most influential Latin American musicians among the youth used to be those who could sound in Spanish almost as good as those who sung in English on the radios and Mtv. This phenomenon was more evident than anywhere else in Argentina, the most tragically Eurocentric country in the whole continent, but it manifested itself in most other countries as well. Then in the mid 90’s a huge movement of thirdworldist rockers took by storm the media, commanded by French artist Manu Chao and his band Mano Negra, who in opposition to the Anglo cultural colonization taught the Latin kids to look inward for influences instead of following every trend dictated by London and New York. The revalorization of cumbia as an authentic Latin rhythm among the cool young people started before neo-cumbia, when local rock bands with a thirdworldist view incorporated the genre to their repertoires (Caifanes, Cafe Tatvba, La Bersuit, El Gran Silencio, Fabulosos Cadillacs, etc). Thirdworldists go by the assumption that native cultural expressions are inherently better than those imported by the white colonialists or imitated by the colonized. They embrace anti-globalization and progressive politics and fetichize music and culture of countries like Cuba, Brazil and yes, Colombia. They love cumbia because it’s a mestizo music and they love everything mestizo.

Find it in: Doña María, Sargento García, Ozomatli, King Chango, Sidestepper, Pernett, Lulacruza, King Coya, La Troba Kung-Fu, Ska Cubano, Up Bustle & Out, Agrupación Mamanis, DJ Santero etc.


The Mash-Up: If the seventies are remembered as the age of funk and disco, the eighties are remembered as the age of synth-pop and hair metal, the nineties are remembered as the age of grunge and gangsta rap, what will the ‘00 decade be remembered for? If you ask me, the homemade mash-up phenomenon. Mash-ups as such, already existed in previous decades, you can go as far as 1983 and find Double Dee & Steinski doing pretty much what Girl Talk does now. What’s new is the democratization of the mash-up when the tools became widely accessible on line and anybody in his room can download instrumental and acapella versions of virtually any song and blend them on Garage Band. The first cumbia mash-ups appeared in 2004/05 done by people like Chico Sonido and Toy Selectah in Mexico and Villa Diamante in Argentina and they were fundamental in spreading the cumbia beat to other audiences that previously rejected the genre.

Find it in: Chico Sonido, Villa Diamante, Sonido Del Príncipe, Alta Joya, Oro11, Kinky Electric Noise, DJ Dus, Black Mandingo, Selector Chico, Zurita, Negro Moreno, Toy Selectah, etc.


The Hip-Hop Aesthetic: In some earlier post on this blog I defined neo-cumbia as the appropriation of cumbia by the hip-hop generation, now I’m expanding my definition with all these branches, but still, I think hip-hop has been fundamental to the development of neo-cumbia. Not only by the many intents of MCs rapping over cumbia beats, but also by the hip-hop production understanding of cumbia as a sampled-loop-based music designed for and by DJs. There have been plenty of people trying to rap over cumbia since the early nineties, most of them lacked absolutely of rhyming skills and hip-hop cred, so the results in general were pretty wack. It wasn’t until Ozomatli came out in ’98 with “La Cumbia De Los Muertos” with respected rapper Chali2Na and DJ Cut Chemist from Jurassic 5 that “real” rappers in Latin America started considering as valid the fusion of both genres. Don’t forget also, that neo-cumbia’s godfather Toy Selectah started as a rap DJ (with Control Machete), and so did many other producers of this genre.

Find it in: Toy Selectah, Selector Chico, DJ Kox-T, DJ Panik, DJ Dus, Fantasma, Alika, Crooked Stilo, Oro11, MaestroShao, Microphone Killa, etc.


The Jamaican Connection: Being both Caribbean rhythms resulting from the African Diaspora, cumbia and reggae are like brothers from different mothers. The more you go deep into the roots of classic Colombian cumbia and Jamaican Ska, the more evident the connection is. That’s why cumbia is so compatible with dub effects and dance hall toasting (and its bastard cousin reggaetón). This has been known by many for a while now, but it became obvious to the oblivious rest when the UK group Up, Bustle & Out released the revolutionary Mexican Sessions LP, which kinda became the foundation of the current scene.

Find it in: Damas Gratis, Fauna, DJ Chavez, Toy Selectah, Daleduro, DJ Negro, Sidestepper, Up Bustle & Out, Ska Cubano, El Hijo De la Cumbia, King Chango, Fidel Nadal, Alika, Princesa, Bomba Estéreo, Systema Solar, Sargento García, Mexican Dubwiser, Sonidero Nacional, etc.


The Artsy Aspirations: Talk about taking cumbia out of context! Trying to make the underdog of popular music something worthy of snobby modern art museum installations! Is it even possible or is it an oxymoron? These cats don’t care much about making you dance, some have an ironic sense of humor, others take cumbia very seriously, but their intricate remixes and subtle versions are to be enjoyed by the trained ear with close attention on the headphones or while tripping at an after-party. The average cumbia listener won’t get it, they probably won’t even see the cumbia connection, but music nerds, critics and DJs love them.

Find it in: El Trip Selector, Gonzalo Martínez, Señor Coconut, El Remolón, King Coya, Axel Krygier, Lulacruza, Frikstailers, Dick El Demasiado, Intima, Chancha Via Circuito, etc.


The Digger Mentality: The average cumbia DJ had to play the top hits of the moment and a handfull of classics... on CD. They were not much into digging through old dusty piles of vinyl searching for obscure oldies. Record-digging became a respected art thanks to cult hip-hop DJs like Shadow and Cut Chemist. Cumbia diggers are always in the search for old LP’s and 7 inches of Colombian or Peruvian classic cumbia and these are very rare records, not easy to find in normal record stores and extremely expensive to buy on Ebay. Paying 12 dollars plus shipping for just a single song, seems like an absurd anachronism in the times of free downloads, but diggers, like all proud DJs, tend to fetichize vinyl maybe a little too much. LP comps with naked chicks on the cover have extra collectible value!

Find it in: Chico Sonido, Sonido Martines, DJ Lengua, DJ Roger Más, Sonido Diablo, Sonido Franko, DJ/Rupture

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bomba Estereo at La Peña de Berkeley

Living in the Bay Area has this one main drawback, most cool new bands skip our town during their tours. Yup, it's hard to believe that such a cosmopolitan and hip place like San Francisco is not automatically in everybody's list of places to perform during their US tour. Everybody goes to New York and Los Angeles first and then, maybe, if we are lucky, they consider paying a visit to NorCal. Sometimes they never come this way (when will The Pinker Tones play in San Francisco? Hello!!!). When it comes to cool new Latin music this becomes more evident than ever, because of the lack of show promoters interested in this genre in the area. So, unless you are content with seeing Los Amigos Invisibles ten times a year, if you live in SF you're always wishing there was a fast train that could take you down to LA for a night to catch a concert and bring you back right away (nobody wanna be stranded in depressing-ass LA!).
You see, the thing is Bomba Estéreo is like the hottest Latin band of 2009, scratch that, it is THE hottest Latin band of 2009, period (go ahead, Nacional Records, you can quote that). They performed in Texas early this year for the SXSW conference, then they did New York in the summer and of course LA and finally, in November, when we were about to lose all our hopes, they made it to the Bay Area. Not even to San Francisco (hard to believe there's not one fucking promoter wanting to put together a Bomba show in this city!) they performed on a Sunday night in Berkeley.
Yes, an off night in an off town and the show was a total success with the place packed like I've never seen it before. And this is the mind-bending part of the whole thing, it's almost impossible to get San Franciscans to cross the bridge at night and it's way too hard to convince them to go out on a Sunday night (I remember trying to be a Sunday night DJ...) and still, with all those factors against it, the show was a great success. Another incontestable piece of evidence that show promoters in SF are sleeping... or retarded.
Anyway, Bomba Estéreo gave an incredible performance. Like I already stated on this blog before, incorporating Liliana Saumet to the band has been the best thing ever that could happen to them. Bomba Estéreo was cool in a sophisticated-neo-cumbia kind of way before, then they added Li Saumet and, like the album title suggest, they blew up, pure FUEGO (something very similar happened this year to Buraka Som Systema too)! Not only is she a great vocalist who can transition flawlessly from rapping to singing like only very few can, she has an unbelievable amount of explosive energy and she's oh-so-fucking-hot!!!!!! Her grabbing the two microphones at once, while moaning and screaming and singing about hooking up, and her side-boob that made you pray for a wardrobe malfunction... man, it was like the closest thing to live porn!
Colombia keeps providing the rest of the boring-ass world with excellent party music like only them know how to do. Bomba Estéreo is the best thing to come out from Colombia since, what? Sidesteppper? Aterciopelados? Shakira? ...cumbia? If you still don't have Bomba Estéreo's album Estalla/Blow Up yet, you must get it now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boom Boom Kid at Thrillhouse Records

What could ever be better than seeing my favorite punk rock artist live and for free near my house? Doing so at an amazing vinyl record store that I didn't even know it existed and it's packed with tons of cheap records! Yeah, vinyl digging and hardcore moshing all in the same place!
Everybody should go through a punk-rock phase sometime in their lives, ideally around 18-21 years old. That's the age when punk's rebellion makes sense. Eventually you grow out of it, for obvious reasons (ok, some people never do), but you always will remember those years and the songs that marked that era, and whenever you are in a fuck-it-all mood later in life, you can always revisit those memories and once again listen to those silly songs you used to take so seriously back then.
I had my punk phase around 1994-95 and at that time, in Buenos Aires, the hottest new punk band was Fun People. I fell in love with their music the first time a friend made me a tape with songs from their debut album Anesthesia and that album has been in my desert island top ten list ever since.
Those were the years of Buenos Aires Hard Core, a collective of bands with three syllable names that pretty much carbon-copied the aesthetics and attitude of the New York macho-core bands of the time. Fun People came out of that scene and distinguished themselves from the rest by playing a more melodic (Californian?) brand of punk with sensitive lyrics (proto-emo?) and very eclectic influences (from trash metal to surf rock to reggae to bolero to The Smiths). I instantly loved them, not only because of their more accessible, catchy melodies, but also because of the unbelievable energy their singer Nekro, a true showman, had on stage. Since then I became a music journalist and so I've seen millions of live concerts of every music genre imaginable but still, to this date, I haven't seen anybody that can match Nekro's stage performance.
So, Nekro eventually became a solo artist and changed his name to Boom Boom Kid. At first I was a little reticent about this move, I thought it was gonna suck but the truth is that Boom Boom Kid's albums were even better than Fun People's and that's a huge statement considering I don't have any nostalgic feelings for the Kid because his music came out after I emigrated to the US.
Anyway, the one thing that singles Boom Boom Kid out of the rest of Latin American punk music, besides the already mentioned impressive live shows, is that he somehow managed to develop a huge steady following outside of Latin America. For a while now he's been coming to the US once a year and doing these D.I.Y coast-to-coast tours with great success among a crowd that's not necessary comprised of Latinos or Spanish speakers (probably due to the fact that his music is 50/50 English and Spanish).
Last night he played in the back room of a punk record store in the Mission District with a couple of local punk bands and of course I went. I thought I knew all the record stores that specialized in vinyl in this city, but I had no idea about this one! I got there early, with time to dig through the crates and I saw Boom Boom Kid there, who I still call Nekro, or Carlitos, for old times sake. We started talking about this and that and I told him I was DJing mostly cumbia nowadays and all of a sudden I had him talking about how much he loved Los Mirlos and Los Destellos and he owns lots of Peruvian cumbia in 7 inches. Then he told me that earlier this year he was invited to DJ at a cumbia event where Kumbia Queers played. And right after that talk, I went back to digging through the boxes of 7 inches and the first thing I found is a cumbia record! Yes! A cumbia 7 inch record in a punk rock store... for free! Yup, they have a box of free stuff and there it was, a 1983 single from the group Los Telefonistas, pressed by Ramex in Texas. The song itself is pretty wack, but hey, it's a cumbia 7 inch and it's free! I kept digging and found a bunch more interesting stuff, but no more cumbia. I need to go back and double check.
Later, Boom Boom Kid gave a semi-acoustic show because the drummer quit the band the night before, but with just one guitar he was still able to amaze me with his usual super energetic performance (sans the usual stage diving and crowd surfing). After the show, I bought his newest CD, called Frisbee (it actually comes attached to a real frisbee disc as packaging) and he also has a new limited edition 7'' called Benjui Jamboree (in clear vinyl!) with five songs recorded with his US back up band, Los Gummy Bears and of course it was the first thing I played when I got home and the first song that comes out is, oh surprise, a cumbia! Ok, maybe not a cumbia per se, it's missing the güiro sound, but the rhythm is definitely a cumbia.
BBK official site: http://boomboomkid.info/

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CUCU DIAMANTES-Cuculand (Fun Machine Records, '09)

There was this Joaquín Sabina's song called "Yo quiero ser una chica Almodóvar," and the title kept popping up on my mind while listening to this album for the first time this morning.
CuCu Diamantes is a New Yorker of Cuban descent who used to sing (or still does, I don't know) for Yerba Buena, a pan-Hispanic collective directed by master producer Andrés Levín, known for mixing every single Latin music style that exists and somehow manage to make it sound cool. In 2005 Yerba Buena released their second album, Island Life (the island being Manhattan) which included the cumbia hit "El Burrito" sung by Miss CuCu (later in '07 it was re-released as a single with CuCu and über-nacos Los Tucanes de Tijuana with some neo-cumbia remixes by the likes of King Coya and Mexican Institute of Sound).
For her debut album however, CuCu stays at arms length from the all-encompassing Yerba Buena formula and their party anthems too focus mostly on old school bolero from a new millennium perspective. Now, I'm obviously not a big fan of the bolero genre, as I'm not too fond of songs that talk about love in a melodramatic way in general. However, I gotta admit that if I was the film director that I day-dream of being sometimes, and I was filming the sexploitation movies that I write in my downtime, I'd totally use her music because it sounds tailor-made for Almodóvar or for the case, a Latin Tarantino-wannabe (that's how high I think of myself in my imaginary parallel universe where I'm a film auteur).
Needless to say, I won't be DJing this shit too much, but my cousins birthday is coming up soon and I know she would love this, so I'm keeping it.

Available on emusic, itunes, amazon, etc.