Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CHICO TRUJILLO - Chico De oro (Barbes Records, 2010)

I'm happy to be the first one to announce the US debut of Chilean cumbia legends Chico Trujillo. We've spend many posts on this blog talking about the roots and evolution of new cumbia, mostly focusing on Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, but very little we talked about Chilean cumbia.
To be honest, the reason for that is that I personally know very little about Chilean cumbia. I do know cumbia is a very popular rhythm that's present at virtually every Chilean party, and I know Argentine cumbia artists are very well received by the Chilean listeners. But there hasn't been any exports of Chilean cumbia that managed to cross over to the international market. Well, that's about to change. Chico Trujillo has been already making noise in Europe and now it's time to bring their joyful, energetic, party music to the US.
To be released on May 11th by Barbes Records, the same guys from New York who a few years ago unleashed the chicha fever by introducing Americans to psychedelic Peruvian cumbia, Chico De Oro will be the first release of Chico Trujillo for this market and yes, it will be followed by a tour that you don't wanna miss. It's actually a compilation of some of their best songs from their previous four albums, about half of them are original compositions, the other half are versions of old-school 60's and 70's Colombian cumbias with a Chilean twist (hence their tag: "Cumbia Chilombiana").
Chico Trujillo's approach to cumbia comes from the thirdworldist mestizo ska/punk perspective, similar to the Argentinean band Agrupación Mamanis which we covered here before. Imagine if Mano Negra, Todos Tus Muertos or Los Auténticos Decadentes decided to form a cumbia band as a side project, to play nostalgic old party songs with an ironic sense of humor. That's pretty much Chico Trujillo: a party band, with attitude.
And judging by their music I bet they have no trouble turning any sleepy concert into a huge cumbia moshpit.
Tour dates to be announced soon!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Spanish Rap Paradox

I was born with a strange superpower: I can see the negative side of everything right away. You know that already if you read my record reviews, right? But it goes further, you present me with any hypothetical scenario and in a couple of milliseconds I'll point out all the potential factors that could eventually lead it to its failure. It gets frustrating sometimes and people (friends, business partners and especially bosses) have hated me based on this uncanny skill many times. But I can't help it, you throw me one great business idea and even if there's 99% chances of success I'll first point out the 1% possibility of misfortune.
So, when I was backstage with Anita Tijoux the other night and she asked me what was my take on the US market situation for her brand of positive, smart, politically conscious rap... in Spanish, all that came out of my mouth were predictions of utter frustration and deceit. Not because I want her album to fail, because of course, there's almost nothing I'd like more than seeing her becoming a huge international act touring the US's biggest music festivals and making significant record sales so then I'll be able to rub it on all your faces and say "I told you so, bitches!" I acknowledge that she's an extremely talented artist and has infinite possibilities of success but when I confront her music with the sad reality of the ultra-segregated American music market I get depressed thinking of all the potential thousands of people that would probably enjoy her music and will probably never find out about it.

You see, ten years ago I too came to the US with the naive intention of spreading the good news of a Latin America and Spain-based movement of good, progressive, intelligent Spanish language rap. I witnessed its birth in the mid-nineties and I followed it while growing up and developing, getting its own personality, with different qualities in each country, until reaching maturity by the end of that decade. I thought moving on to the United States was the obvious next step in Spanish rap evolution, considering the ever-increasing amount of Latino immigrants and their close exposure to hip-hop culture in its place of birth.
My first big journalistic assignment after moving here was to write a whole dossier on the emerging progressive rap scene in Latin America and Spain that I was hoping would introduce the eager Latino listeners in America to a whole new universe of amazing music. Obviously, back then, I still didn't understand the segmentation of the American music market and the almost impossible obstacles to overcome when trying to sell this type of music.
My then-roommate, a singer from a local rock-en-español band, gave me my first tough reality check as soon as the article got published. "The whole rock-en-español scene (the readers of that magazine) was built upon the main idea that we are the aesthetic opposite of hip-hop. You'll never get this crowd to listen to rap, no matter how good it is."
Soon after that I had my first clash with the record industry situation when I found out that major labels had one department for rock-en-español or Latin-alternative, whatever you wanna call it, and the few rap records they released where managed by these departments whose executives, regardless of their good intentions, had no understanding of hip-hop culture whatsoever. I met the then-A&R of Universal Records Latin department and when I told them I liked rap in Spanish they said "Oh! Check it out, we are releasing the new Molotov!" Totally clueless.
Then I met with the A&R of another major label who wanted to put out a compilation of rap in Spanish because he said, he truly believed that was where the future of music was (keep in mind this was way before reggaetón crossed over). When I introduced him to the kind of hip-hop that was coming out from Spain and Latin America he backed down immediately claiming it was too intelligent and cats here wanted rap to be more ghetto, meaning ignorant.
In 2003 SFDK (if you ask me, one of the best rap in Spanish groups that there are) came to California to perform at LAMC and promote their best record ever, 2001 Odisea En El Lodo. I followed them around for three days and felt sorry at how little they were understood and appreciated by the crowd they were exposed to. Lot of Spanish hip-hop fans here know them but never even found out about the Sevilla's duo visit, when I tell them I saw them live in LA they are like, "what? they came here?!"
In 2006 I released Koxmoz's debut album, Tarde O Temprano and I sold more copies to Germans, Italians and Australians than Americans...
Eventually I ended up giving up on rap in Spanish.

These are some of the sad sad factors I enumerated to Anita when trying to explain to her the demographics and market she (or anybody trying to import progressive rap in Spanish from abroad) is gonna be clashing with when trying to get heard in the US: 
  • 1) Rule number one: Mainstream America does not care, at all, about foreign music (or foreign cinema or any other sort of entertainment), especially if it's sung in a foreign language. This seems obvious and totally understandable if you were born or grew up in the US, but it makes absolutely no sense in the naive eyes of foreigners coming from Europe or Latin America who grew up listening to music in different languages (regardless of their understanding of the lyrics) and from different sources, side by side, indistinctly, on the same radio stations and TV shows. Many times I had to interview Latin musicians who were on their first tour to the US, full of expectations and they all said something in the lines of "I'm not interested in playing for the niche of Latino immigrants, I wanna play for the same mixed audience who listen to... (fill in with the equivalent of "the American artist that inspires my music")." Yeah. Good luck! With only a few one-hit-wonder exceptions, Americans won't listen to a song, even if it has the catchiest beat, if they can't understand the words; and in a genre like hip-hop, which is mostly based on lyrical skills, this factor is the hardest obstacle.
  • 2) There is, however, a segment of the American Anglo market that's open to innovative foreign music. Mostly college students who traveled abroad and/or studied languages. Among these, many might be open to listen to rap in a foreign language but most of the times they are only interested in this if the beats include some sort of fusion with "exotic" third-world music. They won't listen to a Spanish-speaking MC who rhymes over amazing beats that resemble J Dilla productions, because they can very well listen to the original J Dilla instead. Paradoxically, in Latin America and Spain, those artist who do blend hip-hop with those "exotic" rhythms (think Orishas, La Mala Rodríguez, Choc Quib Town) are viewed by the average hip-hopper as commercial acts, who sold out by making their music more Latin to reach crossover markets. 
  • 3) People in the US don't necessarily see the expansion of hip-hop through the rest of the world in a good light. Conservative Americans might feel embarrassed that kids in far away countries try to copy the worst of their cultural expressions, while liberals see it as one more sad sign of American cultural imperialism. When Anita was bragging to American interviewers about how huge hip-hop in Chile is, I was thinking "girl, they probably won't see that as a positive thing, they'd rather you kids were still playing pan-flutes."
  • 4) Nostalgia plays a huge role in the music consumption of Latino immigrants in the US and as a general rule, people are nostalgic of music that reminds them of their childhood and youth back home. Since most Latino immigrants in the US left their countries before local hip-hop gained any significance, it has absolutely no nostalgic value for them. While most US-born guys of my generation and similar socioeconomic background have an obvious attachment to early nineties hip-hop (Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature, De La Soul, etc), most Latino immigrants of equivalent demographics can't really relate to this nostalgia for old-school rap because they were listening to Caifanes and Soda Stereo back then; which takes us to the next factor:
  • 5) Most Latino immigrants discovered hip-hop after moving to the US. And they didn't like it. Of course, because they were exposed to the wrong side of it, to the über-commercial, bastardized version you see on cable TV and hear on the radios every day, with all its misogyny, homophobia, ignorance, racism, violence and bling-bling materialism. You can't blame them. I too would hate hip-hop if it was just that.     
  • 6) The rock-en-Español audience won't listen to rap music, as exposed above. That's mostly because they're stuck in the rebel rocker mentality of twenty years ago. Their parents probably came from rural Mexico or Central America listening to traditional regional music, so for them listening to rock music was a way of generational rebellion. I was born in 1976 in an environment where rock in Spanish was already very well established, in fact by the time I reached my teens, local rock was the establishment, so for kids my generation listening to hip-hop or house music was our way of subconsciously rebelling against the mainstream.   
  • 7) Likewise the reggaetón audience won't listen to rap-en-Español either. Reggaetón took over the market that we thought would eventually pick up rap in Spanish and there's no way back. Reggaetón is intrinsically dumb and easy to dance to. There's no need to pay close attention to the lyrics because they're simple, obvious and redundant so the main appeal of the music is the contagious sexy beat and some catchy choruses. Rap music, the good kind, doesn't always provide this and requires a way bigger effort from the listener to follow the lyrics closely to be able to appreciate them. Reggaetón listeners don't have the brain power and/or attention span needed to appreciate rappers like Anita Tijoux. Besides reggaetón oriented radios, nowadays called "urban Latino," dictate what this crowd listens to, and payola dictates what they play, and they won't play any alternative conscious rap shit.  
  • 8) The Latin Alternative audience are definitely more open to hip-hop in Spanish than the old school rockers and the urban radio listeners. But that's a tiny niche within a niche market and they are generally more interested in post-hip-hop stuff, the aforementioned artists that mix rap with "exotic" rhythms or those who approach it from a playful experimental ironic perspective (M.I.S., P. Mosh). They don't fully comprehend the art of beat-digging, turntablism, skillful lyricism or freestyle rapping. When Anita was performing the other day for an audience of stereotypical Nacional Records target customers, and in the transition between songs she started talking about her nostalgia for the times when she listened to Smif-N-Wessun tapes at the park with her friends, she was probably expecting the crowd to go "wooo!" but 90% of them had no fucking idea what she was talking about.
    • 9) Most Latinos who were born or grew up and went to school in the US use English as main language and a lot of them don't speak Spanish at all. A very significant part of this group are very well aware of hip-hop culture and some of them even know good progressive rap and are active consumers of it... but exclusively in English. They have almost no contact with Latino-oriented media, so they never find out about cool Latin music. My girlfriend (yes, I have one!) is a classic example of this: she was born in California from immigrant parents who didn't bother to teach her Spanish. She loves conscious rap and listens to J Dilla, Quannum, Hiero and artist alike but when it comes to Latin music all she knew before meeting me was Shakira and some other crap they play on the radios. I introduced her to Anita Tijoux and she liked her a lot but she would've never found out about her music if it wasn't for me. So right there you have a whole bunch of potential customers that the Latin music record labels don't know how to reach.
    • 10) A lot of Latinos born or raised in the US are into hip-hop, but the wrong kind of it. They either consume the boring-ass lowrider gangsta cholo crap of the south west or the über-commercial reggaetón-infused bullshit from the east and south. They don't know "real" hip-hop and they are too ghetto to listen to MC's dropping knowledge. At the same time, this segment of the audience gives a bad name to hip-hop culture as a whole for the rest of the less-ghetto Latinos who pretty much reject all hip-hop based on classist preconceptions against those clowns. Also, if the first thing that pops up to your head when you think Latin rap is Pitbull, I don't blame you for hating the whole genre.  
    • 11) Almost all Spanish rap made in the US sucks balls. Why? Very simple. If you learned Spanish just from listening to your probably-undereducated parents talk in the kitchen, you never picked up a Spanish book and all the media you consume is in English, your lexicon will be extremely limited, so how do you expect to write good lyrics in Spanish when you only know a handful of words? Ingenious rhymes, complex verse structures, witty wordplay, you can find all that in most good rap music coming from Spain and Latin America, but every time you listen to a Latino MC in the US trying to flow in their ancestors' language you're lucky if he can rhyme "en la casa" with "para la raza." Once again, all that mediocre rap in Spanish produced in the US gives a bad name to the genre as a whole resulting in potential listeners closing their ears to it before giving it a chance.
    So, what to do to overcome all these obstacles?
    Record labels take note: Try to get the product reviewed on English-speaking specialized media. Try to get record stores to place the album in the hip-hop section of the store, not in the reggaetón or Latin pop/rock subdivision where actual hip-hop diggers will never go. Print vinyl. Once again, print vinyl! Real hip-hop listeners still cherish vinyl over all other formats. Pay for a remix from a respected hip-hop producer (Pete Rock, El-P, MadLib...) and release it in 12 inch single vinyl (most hardcore hip-hop heads will definitely buy a record based on the producer, even if they don't understand the lyrics, and that's a good way of introducing them to a foreign artist). Pay for a guest appearance by an underground respected English-spitting MC (Talib, Chali2Na, Del...). Cross your fingers from both hands and pray for a less segregated market.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Chasing Ana, literally.

    Wow, what a week! After almost ten years of dreaming about it, I finally got to hang out with my favorite artist, and one of my favorite people ever, again. It's been four hectic days moving up and down California following the steps of Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux and now that's over, and while I'm still exhausted, it's  time to do a recap.

    Day One
    On Tuesday afternoon I arrived at Los Angeles to attend her first of two shows in that city. I hate LA  as much as every other Northern Californian, so I don't go down there so much, but I always have fun visiting. My rule is that if you stay in LA less than three days, it's a lot of fun and a great place to visit, more than that and I start getting depressed. If I ever made the mistake of being there for longer than a week I'd be exposing myself to dangerous suicidal thoughts (true sad side-story, an old acquaintance of mine went all the way from San Francisco to LA to commit suicide, it made so much sense). What depresses me the most about LA? The over-abundance of parking lots every-fucking-where you look, both because they are aesthetically horrible and because they remind me that I'm 33 years old and I still don't know how to drive.
    Thus, only my supreme infinite love openly professed to Anita Tijoux was reason enough to made me travel down there for a couple of days. Oh, and also, visiting some good old friends. So, I showed up at Little Temple around sound-check time and that's where we finally met again, all very emotional and all. We spent a lot of time catching up and chatting nonsense upstairs backstage and it was great. That  night she was supposed to share stage with Eric Bobo and DJ Rhettmatic, whose impressive live show I've already seen and commented on this blog last year and I was looking forward to check out again because it was pretty awesome. However, Mr. Bobo decided to cancel the gig last minute because of a show with Cypress Hill in New York. Anita was very pissed off about it, mainly because she wanted to see Rhettmatic.
    This was Anita's first visit to the US and she's still in that constant state of awe about meeting in person with her long-time admired underground hip-hop celebs. She had just returned from Austin's SXSW and all she talked about was meeting with Illa J, checking Flying Lotus live and sharing stage with Bahamadia. Since she recorded 1977 (released in the US by Nacional Records, available digitally now) Anita has been all into underground hip-hop again. I remember chatting with her during her pre-Kaos days, when she was over the whole purist-rap shit, listening to stuff like Bugz & The Attic and Buraka Som Systema. Now she seems to be consumed by the cult of dead underground hip-hop hero Jay Dilla and in total denial of her past fling with electronica and especially Latin pop. Her main concern, in fact, is that she's being marketed under the Latin Alternative label, together with neo-cumbia acts that she feels have nothing to do with her, while she'd like to see her record printed in vinyl stacked in the same racks of Mad Lib or Georgia Anne Muldrow. As far from Julieta Venegas as possible.
    We talked about all this and about the paradoxical impossibilities of selling progressive rap in Spanish in the United States (more on this subject soon) and then she went on stage at Little Temple. She couldn't get visas to bring her crew on tour so for her SXSW and LA shows she hooked up with local DJ Ethos (who usually performs along Mexican rapper Bocafloja) and the Chilean-living-in-New-York MC Rodrigo of the group Rebel Díaz in back-up vocals.
    Last time I saw Anita live before that was in Santiago de Chile in 2000 at the last Makiza's show, minutes before their first break-up. So I was very excited to see her on stage again, ten years later and she was sublime. Even though she was hella tired and actually considering taking a nap backstage one hour before the show, once she got on stage she was full of energy and her characteristic charisma, cracking jokes in Spanglish between songs and even freestyling a little bit over some Ethos breaks. After the show she was approached by international keyboard legend Money Mark who invited her to come over to his home-studio a few blocks away, unfortunately I missed that episode of the tour because I had to leave before that to meet with my friend who was providing me with housing for the night.

    Day Two
    On Wednesday afternoon we met at Hollywood's Amoeba Records for some digging and a "What's in your bag?" interview. She was supposed to expend around $75 bucks but she ended up spending a lot more. Mostly hip-hop and soul vinyl, some CD's and a couple of DVD documentaries.
    I wanted to show her the horrible reality of Spanish hip-hop in the US by pointing out where they keep La Mala Rodríguez CD's in the stores, labeled under Latin Pop/Rock, alongside Maná and Mecano (or if you're lucky, within the reggaetón category, ew) but she said she didn't have time to get depressed about stuff like that when there were so many interesting records to dig on the other side of the store. During the interview they asked her why she didn't pick any Latin music discs, her obvious answer was "I could get that any day if I wanted in Latin America, if I came all the way here I'm gonna buy the records we can't find down there."
    From there we drove up to Glendale where she wanted to stop by to pay her respects to Jay Dilla's grave and there we met with the people of Mochilla records who recently put out a Dilla tribute album. She talked about how immensely influential was the Detroit producer for the Chilean hip-hop scene, where local artists throw shows and put out tribute compilations in his honor, and how she was there in representation of the Chilean scene paying homage to the fallen hero. I personally don't believe in cemeteries, the cult of the death and all that stuff (I'm very skeptic and don't believe in any sort of afterlife) but still, it was a very emotional moment for all of us. She kept repeating "I can't believe I'm here!"
    After dinner we had to part ways because she was expected at La Cita for her second LA show and I wasn't  able to join her there because I had tickets to go back to SF that night, I wanted to arrive home with time enough to rest and get mentally prepared for our Thursday night gig together in Berkeley. But she later told me that she show was great, the place was packed and Money Mark showed up there again. "I wish I have his energy when I hit his age," she mentioned at least twice.

    Day Three
    Her show at La Peña in Berkeley was a very important one because that's a significant pocket of Chilean exiles activity, so unlike all her previous shows she was going to perform for a crowd that knew about her and had in common with her the political-exile-grown-up-abroad factor (she grew up in France during Pinochet's dictatorship). I worked on the promotion of this show with her tour manager since day one and for the line up I suggested Funky C as an opening act for obvious reasons.
    Back in the nineties in Chile, Funky C was known as C-Funk from the group Los Tetas and Anita Tijoux made her first official recording as a guest MC in their song "La Medicina" before she crossed over with her group Makiza. Now Funky C has a band called Joya, signed to Sonic 360 records and has been living in the Bay Area for the past two years.
    So, the original line up was those two Chilean acts plus myself DJing through the transitions. Later on, however, they added two more acts: neo-cumbia-dub DJ Mexican Dubwiser who happened to be in town for the week and local female rapper Raw-G, also originally from Mexico. As a result the show got stretched a little too much, pissing some people off because Anita played too late and many had to leave earlier because it was a school night and because there's no more trains to the city after midnight.
    Still, for those who could stay, the show was quite a treat. Unlike her previous shows where she mostly just played 1977 songs, in Berkeley she did a handful of classic numbers including Makiza songs "En Paro" and "Un Día Cualquiera" and for the second half of her performance she invited Funky C and his band on stage and together they freestyled versions of "La Medicina" and "La Rosa de los Vientos."
    After the show, backstage, she was complaining about the sound quality and the lack of power of the sound-system, I told her not to worry, "you sounded good," and she responded, "Juan, if I farted on the microphone you'd say it sounded good too." True.

    Day Four
    My last day of stalking and Anita's last show in California before heading out to the East Coast. Her tour manager had originally reserved that day for her personal leisure and recovery but ended up adding up a last-minute show in San Jose's downtown alongside Mexican rappers Mexia and local underground legend Mex-Tape with his new neo-cumbia project TurboMex. So there we went.
    They picked me up at my house and we drove together with Ana and her Manager and that was her only sort-of visit to San Francisco, which she could only see from the car window for a few minutes. No time for touristy stuff.
    Once again she was very tired, falling asleep in the car and wondering if it'd be possible to take a nap before the show where she was scheduled to head-line. Instead, what she did was asking to change the line up so she could perform and leave earlier. The venue was an un-glamorous billiards hall, so big that even if there were two hundred people it would've looked half-empty. She walked in with no expectations but it ended up being her best California show (at least out of the three I got to see). The crowd was really feeling her, and I'd guess that 90% of them had never heard of her before, but they were a lot more open to hip-hop than the average Latin crowd (one again, more on that subject coming up soon).
    After the show we drove back to Oakland because she was invited to drop by the Quannum Project's studio to meet with Lifesavas' Jumbo (who saw her briefly the night before at La Peña) and Blackaliscious' beatmaster Chief Xcel. It was late past her bedtime and she had plane tickets for early in the morning with almost no time to sleep in between but still, she was very excited about meeting more of her underground hip-hop heroes.
    I remember back in 2000 I bought a copy of that first Quannum Spectrum compilation and had it on me the day I first met Anita in person, having lunch at some friend's house and she was very excited about listening to it and burning a copy (those rare underground hip-hop gems were really hard to find in South America back then). Now we were both meeting the main producer of that classic recording in his studio, ten years later, and it felt like the circle was magically completed.
    She was surprised at how humble, accessible and down to earth all these hip-hop people were, especially coming from a scene were local nobodies and wannabes have so much ego. She felt embarrassed to ask Chief Xcel to sing her a Blackaliscious t-shirt she found that afternoon at a Berkeley thrift-store and then she blushed when he asked her to do the same on one of her CD's.
    They talked about potential tours and collaborations and then, before leaving the Chief invited us to the Quannum's record label stash upstairs from his studio and gave us piles, literally piles, of free CD's and vinyls. Two copies of each, one for me one for Anita. She was worried about having to travel by plane carrying so much overweight. I was the happiest kid on earth.
    At around five AM, while half asleep we said good bye, hopping the success of this tour will result in more frequent visits to the US so we don't have to wait for another ten years to meet again.

    Check out the full photo album of my four days Chasing Ana on my facebook page, and download my Chasing Ana mixtape free from here. Ana Tijoux's US debut album, 1977 is available now on Itunes and the CD will hit stores on April 27th.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    DJ DUS-Soy Yo! (Produce, 2010)

    I've never met DJ Dus but I can tell we could get along as friends because we have so much in common: we like remixing cumbia, we come from a hip-hop background, we appreciate good DJing skills and most importantly, we both represent ourselves publicly as cartoons!
    DJ Dus comes from that bizarre place called Texas where everybody that matters is right now because of the SXSW conference, and he's gonna be performing there too. And as a good Texan neo-cumbia DJ, he shares with artists like Orion, those qualities we mentioned here a couple of posts below about the hip-hop-turntablism-break-beat-based appropriation of music. Because hip-hop-cumbia doesn't necessarily has to be about rapping over cumbia beats, or mashing up rap's acapellas with cumbia, but also, and more importantly, about understanding cumbia as a sampling source where to dig for breaks to manipulate in a turntablist way. That's why I like DJ Dus' productions so much and I've been using them on my sets and mixtapes since I started spinning cumbia, because he was already out there, way ahead of the game.
    This is not an actual DJ Dus album, I think, but more like a collection of unreleased homemade tracks, most of them instrumentals, some remixes, some mash-ups, all good. You can listen to and buy the digital download here and the best thing is that you decide the price. So go ahead and support this artist and if you're in Austin go see him live this weekend.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    DJ JUAN DATA-Chasing Ana (Free Mix)

    Just in case you haven't noticed yet, or you just dropped by here for the first time, I'm gonna clarify this one more time: I love Ana Tijoux, she's one of my favorite artists and she also happens to be a great friend of mine. Today starts her first US tour ever in Austin, Texas and next week we'll have her here in California where I'm gonna be opening for her at her Berkeley show. 
    Now you can't even start to imagine my excitement! Consider I haven't seen her in person for almost 10 years and we're gonna be reunited on stage after so such a long time!
    So, in preparation for the big reunion, I've been listening to a lot of her music and a couple of days ago I decided to make a mix-tape with a bunch of her tracks, both as a tribute to her and as a way to introduce her to new audiences. I called it Chasing Ana in obvious reference to one of my favorite movies of all times, Chasing Amy (yeah! I play Ben Affleck on the cover, lol!) and it's a collection of some of her best work, both as a solo artist and with her former group Makiza, plus some collaborations and a handful of rare unreleased tracks and demos that I'm lucky to have (so even if you're a fan, you'll definitely find here some stuff that you've never heard before, I guarantee it!). 
    I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed mixing it. If you live in the Bay Area, see you next Thursday at the show and remember her album, 1977, comes out next month on Nacional Records.

    For live streaming and playlist you can always visit my Play.FM station.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    COPIA DOBLE SYSTEMA-Cumbia Colegiala (Urban World Records, '10)

    For a while now we've been talking about neo-cumbia experiments hailing from the most unexpected corners of the planet, Australia, Switzerland, The Netherlands and now... Denmark!
    OK, not now, in reality, back in 2007 Danish neo-cumbia already hit the news when Fighters + Lovers released the CumbiaClash CD remixing revolutionary cumbias by the FARC (Colombian guerrillas) and pissing a lot of people off, particularly Colombians who are too sensitive about this issue.
    Anyway, this debut EP due to be released later this month by Copia Doble Systema also comes from Denmark and it's filled with remixes of a dub cover version of "La Colegiala."
    "La Colegiala" (Spanish for "the schoolgirl") tells the story of an adult male being infatuated with a teenage schoolgirl who walks by him daily, which by today PC standards would be considered a perverted child molester in the US, but back in the day in Latin America this topic was even ok for TV commercials. This cumbia is tremendously popular among Mexicans that's why I always thought it was original from that country but today, doing some research before writing this I found out that the original was actually a classic Chicha (Peruvian cumbia) song written by Walter Leon and his group Los Ilusionistas in the early seventies. Later in the 80's it was covered by Rodolfo y su Típica in a more Colombian fashion and that was the version that crossed over, I assume, because it was featured on a Nescafe commercial on TV.
    In 1985 the song was covered one again, this time by Mexican weirdest über-commercial cover-band Los Joao. These guys made covers of pretty much everything that was being played during those days (from Lionel Richie to Raffaella Carra) and in Mexico their kitschy proto-techno versions and more famous than many of the originals. I guess that was the version that became popular in Mexico, but maybe it was La Sonora Dinamita's version, I don't know for sure. The thing is, everybody and their mothers covered that song and then this wacky wannabe-rapper, also from Mexico, called Caló did his own radio-friendly cumbia-rap cover too and it went through the ceiling. That particular cumbia became so ubiquitous that I ended up hating it. I didn't even care much by the dub version done in 2008 by S.O.S. for a Sol Selectas compilation (DJ Sabo!).
    And now this! Four remixes more of La Colegiala in case you didn't have enough!
    Anyway, regardless of my personal dislike of the song, I liked these new instrumental versions, specially the Mega Bo mix. I don't know how these Danish people got into cumbia in the first place and how did they discovered that one song and I'm really curious about that. Did they hear the original Peruvian version first, or the Colombians one or the many Mexican versions? I guess we'll have to ask them.
    You can listen to Copia Doble Systema's EP here and starting March 26th you can purchase it on Juno.