Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The Whiskey Barons have released a bunch of memorable reedits of Latin soul classics that are a must for every DJ who appreciates finely crafted soulful beats. In this occasion, however, they went for two obscure reggae covers of classic Jamaican tunes done by virtually unknown Latin American artists (not credited on the label).
Now, I'm not particularly a reggae lover, but I do like a lot of dub music and dancehall, and even some old timey ska and of course, I also like a lot of reggae en español.
There's plenty of good original reggae being produced in South America well more than enough to avoid the formula of the translated cover of the imported hits. In fact, that formula is pretty much outdated.
Back in the day, people in Latin America were doing a lot of covers of contemporary Anglo hits badly translated to Spanish and this happened in all genres, from early rock 'n' roll, to funk, disco and reggae. Eventually people started writing their own songs in those same styles, adding them a little of their local flavor and making the themes more relevant to their listeners and the translated cover that reigned supreme during the '60s and big part of the '70s started to be widely regarded as inevitably cheesy.
Nowadays, however, there's a whole new market for this old covers. There're some Latin DJ/diggers who rescue these forgotten gems and display them through the prism of ironic nostalgia and then there's some gringo diggers who mainly just see the novelty factor in these tracks. They like the fact that it's a familiar tune in a language they don't quite understand and it sounds slightly different than the original, almost like a sort of remix. I don't think they get how cheesy this translated versions are or how horribly bad are the translations, and they don't really care about that.
I wonder what would be the effect if this phenomenon happened the other way around. If, for example, you had Z-list American bands doing covers of Argentine cumbia villera top hits with the lyrics clumsily translated into English; would they get any sort of cred in their local scene? And more importantly, would people in Argentina laugh their asses off while rolling on the floor when they listen to it? I know I probably would, but I probably couldn't stop listening either...
Anyway, don't mind me, I'm rambling today. This 45 here has a re-edited cover of Desmond Dekker's "Shanty Town" (re-titled "Buena Suerte") and a twisted version Gregory Isaac's "Night Nurse" in primitive Spanglish. I'll probably be spinning the first one a lot more on my sets, since the slow tempo of the second one puts me to sleep. Still, even if it's just for the novelty factor, it's a record worth adding to your collection and it represents more good news for those who share with me this inexplicable fetish for Latin 7'' vinyl records.

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