Monday, March 26, 2012

SENSACIÓN SHIPIBO-Reshin Noma/Amakashin Amawe (Masstropicas, 2011)

The cumbia universe is filled with absurd, bizarre, ridiculousness, kitsch and absolute lack of regard for anything that resembles a conventional sense of taste. That's part of its charm, especially when taken out of context and viewed through the prism of irony. Of course there's the whole other side of the story, the deep African diaspora roots and the contagious funky beats.
Cumbia new fans, the ones who didn't necessarily grow up in a cumbiero environment (myself included) have probably arrived to it enticed by either one of those two factors, or a combination of both.
Then you have Michael Pigott of Masstropicas, a vinyl (and cassette) record label out of Massachusetts that started releasing reissues and is now also including newly recorded original material in their slowly by steadily expanding catalog. This guy's interest in cumbia, Peruvian cumbia in particular, is a total mystery to me.
Unlike most other gringos who fell under the chichadelic spell in recent years, Michael doesn't go for the funkier side of chicha that appeals to the soulful break beat-digging heads and DJs out there. And when it comes to the kitsch and the bizarre, he goes beyond the imaginable and taps into flat-out crazy territory, with no apparent ironic intermediation. He somehow managed to extract some of the strangest expressions off the fringes of Peruvian pop culture and instead of laughing at it, like the millions of people mocking Wendy Sulca on youtube, he seems to actually, genuinely, enjoy it.
I used to think he was just another gringo who went down to the Amazonian jungle to experience ayahuasca and after a mind-distorting psychedelic trip came back obsessed with chicha music and Peruvian aboriginal culture. Now I'm pretty sure his connection to it goes way deeper, but I still don't quite understand it.
Sensación Shipibo's 7'' vinyl single on Masstropicas is some of the strangest Latin American music you would expect to find pressed in this particularly expensive to produce format. And that's evidence that this guy must really, really love this music, unless he's an eccentric millionaire looking for more imaginative ways to waste money, which I doubt.
It's obviously not chicha. Not at least in the classic sense of it, established (for most of us outside Peru) by the reissues and compilations of Barbés and Vampisoul. Neither it's huayno. It's a peculiar brand of cumbia that's noticeably detached from the Afro-Colombian roots of the genre (as it is detached from any other known branch of modern or traditional cumbia), probably because of it developing in almost absolute isolation from the rest of the world, in some tiny-ass extremely poor town in the middle of the jungle. The lyrics (recorded with lots of delay) include some verses in Spanish but most of it is delivered in the singer's native language, and according to Michael himself, under the influence of ayahuasca rituals (the band's leader is also a shaman).
Of course the music is trippy as fuck, but not in the sense most would probably expect. It still has a kind of up-tempo party vibe. But strictly from a DJ point of view, I'd think it twice before dropping these tracks in my set unless I'm confronted with a very open-minded mixed crowd and they are totally fucked up and is very late in the night. The average Latino party crowd won't get it and even the Peruvians that come to my gigs would probably feel embarrassed. That being said, if you have the right audience at the right time and you are pretty confident you're in the zone and you have them eating them from your palm, drop this shit and it's dancefloor chaos guaranteed.
Needless to say, if you're down for the completely unconventional I strongly suggest you get one of the limited copies of this release as soon as you can. If you were looking for some ñu-cumbia dance-floor-smashing hit to please the hipster crowd, probably look somewhere else.

This 7'' single is exclusively sold as part of a set along with an LP by Los Jharis de Ñaña. Get it here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

BANG DATA-La Sopa (Rockolito Music, 2012)

Bang Data's debut album finally came out and if you're from around here, you probably know this very well because these guys are like everywhere, but I have a feeling people in other latitudes are not as familiar.
Full disclosure, I can't be too hard on them when criticizing their music because these guys are almost like family to me. Not in the sense that we share the same last name (which leads to a lot of funny confusion) but in the sense that I've known them for  many years, we've shared the stage more than a few times and we always, always run into each other in the Bay Area scene. They are mad cool, except for the bassist who hits on my wife when he gets drunk, JK. Besides, the album is plagued with guests who are also very familiar (to me at least), like my colleague El Kool Kyle (who produced the beats on the cumbia tracks) and Chile's DJ Julicio (who did the scratching on a couple of tracks and is the scratch DJ of one of Chile's hip-hop biggest MC's: Zaturno). So yeah, the album has that feeling of family reunion, around a table with some hearty bowls of soup.
La Sopa includes those same songs from their debut EP from 2009, plus many new ones, encompassing all sounds and traditions from the Latin American palette, from Afro-Peruvian, to Brazilian, passing through rock, rap, reggae, ska and the omnipresent cumbia. The bilingual flow of Nicaraguan rapper Deuce Eclipse works out great over those eclectic beats but he doesn't take away the spotlight from the music, this is not a hip-hop album. Rapping is there all over La Sopa, from the first to the last song, but the main ingredient of the soup is the confluence of musical styles and the uplifting international party atmosphere. The production by Peruvian Juan M. Caipo (the fact that the producer's name is Juan and the band's last name is Data has been the source of most of those aforementioned funny confusions) is very detail-attentive, although his rock-en-español background permeates into the band's sound a little too much, but that's just my personal preference (I'm a beat-head, I would've like to see more involvement of Amp Live) and I'm sure plenty other Latinos out there are gonna disagree with me on that and welcome Bang Data as the current leaders of Latin Alternative made in the US.

Available now on iTunes, Amazon, Emusic, etc.  CD's coming up soon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

DIGGING: Even more 45's for y'all!

Like I promised, here's the second batch of 45's, trying to catch up with my avid collecting. Unlike many other jealous DJs and collectors I rather share my finds with the world, specially since most of this is rare, hard to find and/or out of print music that you'll probably won't find very easily on the internet. I do it out of genuine love and respect, but also, as usual, making fun of the bizarre aspects of it. Unfortunately I'm not a connoisseur when it comes to most of these artists, so most of my writing is bullshit and speculation. And as I always say, if somebody with the right knowledge about these tunes is out there reading, please feel free to correct my ignorant rants and illuminate us all.

AFROSOUND-"La Gozadera"/"Pa Ti Mami" (Discos Fuentes, 1974): I'm pretty sure Afrosound will always and forever be my favorite cumbia act to ever come out of Colombia. And they are definitely the funkiest of them all. They took note from the Peruvian chicha guitar, and added to it some major groove and better percussion and goddammit shit's funky! If you're only gonna save one of the 7'''s  out of this batch, make it this one. "La Gozadera" starts up with a funky beat at 108BPM  while there's a bunch of people laughing in the room and then all of a sudden changes gears and shifts to 117BPM with some addictive cumbia beat and it's all dance frenzy until the end. The flip-side is also quite funky, has some interesting breaks and the beat is pretty much locked in 101 throughout the track. No filler here, all killer.

PAPI BRANDAO Y SU CONJUNTO-"Margarita Vargas"/"Tiempo de Cometas" (Brandao, date unknown): Some old-school Panamanian cumbias here by Papi Brandao, who some of you may know from the Panama! compilations by Soundway (at least that where I know him from). Side A is an odd cumbia with a female singer doing some really strange super-high pitch unintelligible singing. On the flip-side we have Mr. Brandao himself getting on the mic for a mellow, nostalgic accordion driven paseo. Both have a very distinctive country-side folklore feeling, characteristic of that era before cumbia migrated to the cities.

CHICO CHE Y LA CRISIS-"El Mundial De Chico Che" (Ariola, 1986): 1986 was the year Mexico hosted the World Cup (won by Argentina, by the way) so I bet there were plenty of commercial recordings that year talking about football and the cup and this one was just one of them. Chico Che was the first artist I ever featured on a digging-related post on this blog, I didn't know much about him back then. Apparently he was a lovable character in Mexican pop culture throughout the '80s and cumbia was the main style in his repertoire, but not the only one. I personally wouldn't dare label this one here under cumbia and I'd never play it in my sets, but still, it's pretty funny, in a kitsch, bizarre way. I specially like the last half with the announcer talking over the music and introducing the band as a football team. The b-side was just flat out horrible, so I'll spare you the pain and skip it.

LA ALONDRA INTERIORANA-"La Jorobaita" (Artelec, date unknown): Another countryside cumbia from Panama. Very little info on this one, sorry, and the recording sounds pretty crappy too. It must be really old. The lyrics (again with a hight pitch female voice) are really hard to understand but from what I can make out, and the title, the song is about an old humpback woman who comes and goes flying so I don't know if it's a figurative speech, or some farmer's legend, or they're just tripping they balls off. The b-side (not included here because of the extreme poor quality of the recording) is a very strange rhythm described as mejorana zapateada, with the beat done with shoe tapping and it's titled "The Diabolical." I guess this must be some voodoo macumba witchcraft shit.

PEDRO LAZA Y SUS PELAYEROS-"El Chicharrón"/"La Panadera"(Discos Fuentes, date unknown): Feeling hungry? Here you have two golden-age Colombian cumbias about food. One is about fried pork skins with hair. Yeah, pretty gross. But he doesn't dive into the subject until the second half of the song, the first half is all instrumental beauty. The other one a lot more upbeat and it about the bread that this one specific woman makes that everybody loves, even the kids. I'm like, dude, all kids love bread! When was the last time you tried to feed a kid something other than cheese or bread? Anyway, I was secretly hopping there was some hidden meaning, you know, like maybe in Colombia bread was slang for pussy or something, but I'm pretty sure he's very much literal and is actually talking about mundane bread.

TERESIN JAEN Y SU CONJUNTO-"Cariñito Verdadero"/"Virgen Del Carmen" (Discoteca Kathia, date Unknown): Back to Panama and the countryside cumbias with colorful record labels. This one says El Rey (The King) and I don't know if that's the artist, the label or what. Anyway both cumbias here are very up-tempo and heavy on the accordion, but the vocals are recorded with a lot or reverb with make them really annoying and hard to understand. Once again, I have little to no idea what the fuck they're talking about, but I don't think it matters, it's Teresin's accordion here who takes all the spotlight and the vocals are just one instrument more in the mix.

LIBERACION-"La Burbuja" (Disa, date unknown): Why the fuck is this called "La Burbuja" I have no idea. Doesn't make any sense, but who cares the track sucks anyway. I once gave away on this blog another track by Liberación that was the absolute dopeness, a cumbia version they did of "The Pink Panther Theme," a record that I play at pretty much all my sets. So I bought this hopping it was equally great and now I'm wondering if it's even the same band, or maybe somebody else with the same name. Oh well, at least they don't sing much, that's the only plus. The flip-side was seriously damaged so couldn't be ripped, but don't worry, it was probably worst than this one.
LOS LIDERES-"La Lira"/"Taka Taka" (Peerless, 1973): Al Verlane's "Taka Takatá" was a hit in the summer of 1972 in Europe and many places of Latin America and it was covered numerous times in different music styles, from symphonic to flamenco to cumbia. I don't know much about the original song or the author, but I do have a couple of covers of it from different places in Latin America and saw there's a lot more on youtube. Don't bother, they all suck (there's a version by Irakere in that Cuban Funk Experience compilation that's pretty dope though), and so does this version here, by Los Líderes, who renamed the song "Taka Taka." On the flip-side you have "La Lira," and as far as I know, with my basic Spanish knowledge (after, you know, going to school and college and living most of my life down there) lira is Spanish for Lyre, that instrument that they played in Ancient Greece and  you see in Irish coins and stuff. So when I hear a guy singing a cumbia about a lyre that he has in his soul and doesn't let him rest and that lyre was born on a river shore, I'm like dude what the fuck are you talking about? Seriously, can you be a little less cryptic? Sure, "Taka Taka" doesn't mean anything in Spanish either, but it's pretty obvious the song is about having fun at the beach in the summer.  I sometimes wonder if back then people did free association of random words to come up with the titles and themes of songs and then I remind myself I have a song called "Salchichón Primavera."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ORQUESTA EL MACABEO-La Culpa/Se Pone Difícil (Discos de Hoy, 2011)

As a general rule, I'll pretty much buy anything that's Latin and pressed on 7'' vinyl, because if you're one of the extremely few who still releases music in that format, chances are, you're pretty cool. I didn't know anything about this one here, but following the aforementioned logic I bought it and I just finished listening to it for the first time and let me tell you, I'm not disappointed.
It's salsa, so it's not really my thing. I think I made very clear in many occasions that I don't listen to, don't spin and definitely don't dance to salsa. Still, I made an exception to that rule with Bio Ritmo and I'm pretty sure that same exception can apply to this Puerto Rican band of young salseros.
Unlike the dominant cheesy salsa of the bar bands doing covers of trait standards, these guys make all originals and they have an indie, D.I.Y. mentality and punk rock aesthetics (they also list La Polla Records among their influences). So there's definitely more of an edge here than what you listen at the average salsa dance parties. Still, both songs on this 33RPM EP are pretty slow. "La Culpa" has a delightful retro-keyboard line, but the BPM count barely reaches 70. The flip-side, starts even slower than that and then shifts abruptly to 95BPM, but the slow intro is way too long. So none of these two are dance-floor packing tracks and I'd have a hard time blending them smoothly into my dance set, but I still think I'll be giving them a spin or two during warm-up.
Anyway, just the notion that new young guys in current Puerto Rico are doing cool stuff like this and releasing it on vinyl (I later learn they have a 12'' album too) makes me feel hopeful about the revival of the format and makes me wonder if there are others like them. I need to do some research.

You can buy it directly from them here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DIGGING: More 45 rips for y'all

It's been a while since my last grab-bag of 45 rips, and I've been accumulating way too many new (actually old, but new for me at least) 7 inch singles to dump them all in just one post, so please be patient, I'll try to catch up with a series of posts of which this is the first. To all the new followers who have been demanding that I re-upload the old collections of 45s because the links expired (or because megaupload disappeared) I'm sorry, but that's not going to happen, you missed the train on those. But don't worry there're plenty more coming up, so stay tuned to The Hard Data.

LOS WAWANCO-Volume#20 (Odeón Pops, date unknown): I've already posted a similar picture sleeve EP of Los Wawancó on a previous post. Like many Argentine releases of  that period, it comes in small hole 7'' vinyl but at 33RPM and with two songs on each side, unlike the usual cumbia 45RPM singles. Includes one of their greatest hits "Tiburón a la vista" one of the few cumbia songs I remember from my early childhood in the '70s. I don't know who did the original version of this (most likely somebody in Colombia) but during that decade this silly song about sharks eating people at the beach was tremendously popular in both Argentina and Mexico. In fact, Mexico's Titán made a great use of some version of it, turning it into a hip-hop beat for La Mala Rodríguez to rap on, on an early 2000's hit included on the soundtrack of the crossover movie Y Tu Mamá También.

PLUMA & SUS OCHO OCTAVOS-"El Cachumbembe" (Sonolux, date unknown): This is not a cumbia but I'm gonna go ahead and include it in this batch anyway because it's a pretty dope track. I know nothing at all about the artist or even the music style (it comes labeled as bomba, but considering this is pressed in Colombia, I don't assume this is the same thing they call bomba in Puerto Rico, you know how genres names have complete different meanings in each country). Still, it's very up-beat and afrocentric and it has an irresistible dancefloor-packing groove that never failed when I dropped it in my sets.

MANTECA-"Amalia Batista" (Discos Istmeños, date unknown): Another non-cumbia track worth sharing. A percussion-heavy Afro-Cuban classic in a Panamanian pressing. The song is a very well known standard thanks to the version made famous by Tipica 73, but I'd argue this version here by Manteca is way better and a lot funkier. I don't know any history behind or around this song and the black woman named Amanda Batista who's referred on those lyrics, who apparently had some super-powers over men. But just by googling her name you get such a wide array of result, from an opera all the way to a cheesy '80s telenovela. There must be some Cuban reader out there who'll come to the rescue and tell us who this mysterious woman was, I have no idea.

CESAR POMPEYO Y SU SONORA-"Cumbele" (Tropical, 1976): There's certainly a grey area where the line that separates cumbia from salsa gets blurred--at least for the people in the record labels in charge of labeling specific musical genres. The following two singles are examples of this, albeit from opposite directions. This song here is titled "Cumbele" and with a title like this you know it's gonna fall somewhere in the cumbia-related realm. It does. Somehow, however they labeled it African Salsa, and honestly the African elements are way easier to find than the salsa. The flip-side comes with a song that would more easily fall in the salsa category and it was properly labeled, although I didn't bother ripping it for this post because it didn't help me support any point.

THE LATIN BROTHERS-"Bella Cumbia" (Discos Fuentes, 1977): Following with the blurring of the lines that separate cumbia from salsa, here we find this golden age Discos Fuentes release with a song labeled as cumbia, and titled "Bella Cumbia" but with arrangements more appropriately typical of a salsa. So yeah, there you have it, first a song that I'd call cumbia, labeled salsa, and a song that I'd call salsa, labeled and titled cumbia. I mean, if these record label people in South America can't tell one from the other, how can we honestly expect the average gringo to differentiate genres?

LOS BESTIALES-"Soy Parrandero"/"Cumbia Moruna" (Peerless, 1977): In a previous batch of 45 rips I included the one that I assume is the original version of "Soy Parrandero" in an interpretation by Emir Boscan. This one here came out the same year and with a tighter more up-beat instrumentation and the same misogynist lyrics about a guy who wants to party all night just to come back home and find his wife waiting patiently for him with the dinner ready and the motherfucker tells her "hey, that's how I was when you first met me!" (Hadn't we all used that excuse at some point in our lives?) The flip side is a slower, sadder, but still danceable cumbia with a really nice piano and plenty of brass arrangements. I don't know anything about the artists but I assume they're Mexican (that's where the record is pressed) and I also will assume that the parrandero song was some sort of a big hit in Mexico in those years, since it matches perfectly the idiosyncrasy of the stereotypical old school Mexi-macho man. 

LOS SHAPIS-"Llantos de Amor" (Horóscopo Discos, date unknown): There's a lot of really sappy Peruvian cumbias, about crying and love lost and corny stuff like that. This is only on of them. I'm not a big fan of the genre. I like the whole psychedelic aspect of chicha, the surf guitar and the percussion, but I enjoy it the most on its instrumental format, when they come with lyrics, they're usually sad, unoriginal and in most cases very poorly written. Still, this track is pretty (unintentionally) funny, even if only for the introduction, when the singer/announcer (by the name of Chapulín!) comes out saying "don't cry no more my love" and right after that he starts dropping dude's names "Jorge Marti, Jaime Moreira" which probably back then led to a lot of confusion regarding the sexual orientation of said men. Sorry, I have the sense of humor of a  12-year-old boy. The flip-side was scratched so I couldn't rip it but it was also a sad song about losing a loved one.

LA LUZ ROJA DE SAN MARCOS CON ANICETO MOLINA-"Me voy para Macondo"/ "La Gorra" (Polydor, 1977): Accordion virtuoso Aniceto Molina is better known in Mexico, El Salvador and the US than his homeland Colombia. This particular single was recorded and pressed in Mexico and he even drops shout-outs to Mexican cities on it, but both songs are 100% Colombian. "Me voy para Macondo" was covered quite a few times (I also have a version by Argentina's Riki Maravilla) and as you may infer by the title is about going to that mythological town of Gabriel García Marquez's literature. The flip-side is a song by Lisandro Mesa about a hat. Yeah, just that. One appeals to the well-read intellectuals, the other one, at people who wear hats. Both are very high up there in the BPMs (140 to 150) making them really hard to mix in smoothly in a DJ set, but you can totally drop any of these two at the end of the night and I guarantee people will go bonkers. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

CHICHA LIBRE-Canibalismo (Barbés, 2012)

An instant favorite right here. Straight to the list of candidates for best of 2012.
Chicha Libre may have started as a Brooklyn-based tribute band to an obscure music genre nobody in the Northern Hemisphere had heard of before, but they have grown and developed their own thing by both, going deeper into chicha roots and expanding into other genres. Canibalismo is proof of that.
Chicha Libre is not stuck looking backwards, trying to recreate a bygone era, but using those old Peruvian records as a framework to create something new and current, pretty much in the same manner that Bio Ritmo evokes 70's salsa.
On their second album, the band commanded by frenchman Olivier Conan, wisely avoids the covers of classic Peruvian tunes, that in the time that has passed since their debut, have become common place. Still, the atmosphere of the ayahuasca-infused Amazon jungle trip is present over all the album.
There's a stronger, tighter percussion on this new album (those timbales!) that make the mix sound a lot funkier and I know DJs and break-beat diggers will be thankful. There's also some quirky numbers like the chicha cover of Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" that could've only been conceived while flying over Iquitos on a helicopter with the side doors opened. There's even a subtle wink to cumbia villera's characteristic keyboard on "Lupita en la selva y el doctor" a song with pretty funny lyrics as you may infer from the title. But most of the songs are instrumental-only or instrumental-with-announcer-talking-in-the-breaks and that's when I like them the best, like on the album opener, "La Plata," that's begging to be pressed on a 7'' single and become a must on all my DJ sets.
Canibalismo will be out in May on digital and CD, there're no announcements of vinyl release anywhere yet, but I'm leaning to assume they're gonna press some singles at least (like they did with their debut) although a double LP (like they did with Roots of Chicha) would be welcomed too.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

SPANGLISH FLY-Me Gusta Mi Bicicleta/The Po-Po (Electric Cowbell, 2012)

Two things I deeply love: 7'' records and my bicycle. Well, to be honest, I like bicycles in general, not really mine in particular. I mean, I love mine, because it's the only one I have, it's the one that takes me places and because I got it for free. But I'm not particularly infatuated with it. It's old, heavy, rusty, some gears don't work, the brakes screech really bad. The only good thing about my bicycle is that nobody wants to steal it. I had some fancy, modern bicycles before, they all got stolen. This one, nobody wants it, its resale value in the black market is probably way too low.
So I don't go around singing "Me gusta mi bicicleta"  but I would, because it's a catchy tune and I like songs about bicycles. I wish there were more. And the fact that it's sung by a female voice and she says that you must know how to ride a bike if you wanna be down with her, or something, that's dope. You see, I don't know how to drive cars. I'm 35 years old and I've never been behind the steering wheel of a motorized vehicle. So for me, riding a bicycle is not a hipster thing, it's pretty much my only choice.
I remember when I first moved to the US and everybody used to tell me, dude you need to learn how to drive and get a license or you won't get any pussy. Because of course, in their retarded view, only guys with cars are able to get dates with hot girls. Because that's what Hollywood movies teach you. I never cared about that. I got lucky with way more women than most of my car-driving male friends and that's because my confidence and my masculinity were never attached to a four-wheel vehicle.
Then riding bikes became the cool thing to do if you live in a city, and all wanna-be-cool guys ran to buy a fixie in order to get some hipster pussy, but I was doing it since way back then and for real reasons. I was never political about it, never participated in Critical Mass. Maybe because, unlike most of those who act like arrogant kings of the road, riding a bike wasn't a choice for me. I didn't sell my car to protest oil wars. I rode a bike because that's the only way I had to get around in a country where public transportation is so pathetic.
Anyway, Spanglish Fly just released this new tune on Electric Cowbell and I suggest you get a copy soon because they sell out quickly. It's their second 45 on that label and it follows the same retro-aesthetics of their previous one, trying to emulate the '60s sound of Latin soul, or boogaloo if you may. The B-side is about the Po-po and it's not bad either but it's the bicycle song the one that will definitely get more plays on my sets.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BONDI BLASTER - ¡Lo Juimo! (Stronghold Sound, 2012)

More blatant self-promotion for Bondi Blaster on the official date of its release. I won't review my own album, obviously, but I'd like to share another background story with you. In this occasion I'd like to talk about the history behind "Alta Farra" the last track added to the EP, the first one to have a video of sorts.
I've known Bolivian multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Navia for a few years, he was a constant nightlife figure at many parties where I DJ'd and he always suggested that we should meet at his studio to work on some tracks together. However, I never felt confident enough with my musical skills (or lack of thereof) to go in the studio with this guy who has some real talent and actually knows a thing or two about music, unlike me. So I always postponed his invitations.
Then one night he invited me to jam at his family restaurant, I sequenced some random cumbia loops and he played guitar on top. It was a slow wednesday night so nobody witnessed the event besides the restaurant employees. But that was the birthplace of this collaboration.
Later I returned the favor by inviting him to jam at the Stronghold Sound studios and the result of that jam was the funky-chichadelic "Boliguay Express." That track represented a big switch and a leap forward in the short career of Bondi Blaster. Unlike all our previous studio experiments, this track was born of an actual jam, all the instrumentation was improvised on the spot and we recorded it in a manner that represented this style with loyalty: each instrument was recorded live in one take, no rehearsal, no edits, no double takes, just press rec and play. It was a complete different type of experiment that infused a lot of new energy to the project.
Unfortunately for us, Stronghold Sound's director and main producer Dub Snakkr had to leave the US and relocate somewhere in the Middle East before we could work on more tracks the way we would've wanted it. But fortunately Gabriel Navia had a studio of his own, in the restaurant's basement, and that's were we met and co-produced the only Dub Snakkr-free track of the EP, "Alta Farra."
It started with me bringing a couple of loops to his pro-tools and lining them up there, then Gabriel suggested we should add some Andean pan-flutes and I said "why don't you play some charango too, since we are going in that direction?" I was honestly a bit scared of the track sounding too much like Shakira's "Whenever Wherever," it definitely sounded poppier than the previous Snakkr-produced tracks. But we still didn't know what to do with the track and then I remembered I had these lyrics that I had written many years ago, when I was still pursuing a career as a rapper, lyrics that I had never recorded. It was a perfect match, so we decided to go with it.
The original idea of the "Alta Farra" verses has to be tracked back to the late-nineties, in Buenos Aires. Back then I was still an MC, and I rapped under the moniker of Mangaka. I also happened to have a girlfriend at the time named Carla. So in my nerdiest moments of linguistic infatuation I'd freestyle rhyme verses inside my head where all the words, like both our names, had exclusively the vowel 'A'. Back then I never thought of it as a serious concept for a song, it was only an inside joke between me and my then-girlfriend. But not too long after that, Argentine folk/rock singer-songwriter Leon Gieco came out with a surprising hit "Ojo con los Orozco" an imaginative and hilarious pseudo-rap song where all the words had exclusively the vowel 'O'. That proved, at least to me, that it was feasible to write a whole song with just one vowel, and being the language nerd that I am, I took upon the challenge and started to collect, on a small notebook I took everywhere with me, words and phrases with the letter A.
Years passed and I had relocated to Los Angeles, in 2002, when I finally finished the first draft for the song, that back then was titled "La Mala Racha." I remember I rapped it to Tami (the girl who sings "Salchichón Primavera" on Bondi Blaster's debut) in early 2003, on our way to the Coachella festival and I suggested --since her real name is obviously Tamara-- that she should sing the chorus. That was probably the first time we ever talked about collaborating on a song together. However, soon after that I moved to San Francisco and left behind all my intentions of ever pursuing a career in rap music, to focus in my DJing.
Years passed and I felt that that song never got old and it could still be recorded. I suggested it to Dub Snakkr and he was down, but we never had the time to produce it. A year later, at Navia's Pachamama studio, "La Mala Racha" finally became "Alta Farra" after I changed the chorus and adapted a couple of verses to the new beat and song-structure.
We had the instrumental track finished and we had only to add the vocals and we didn't have much time because the engineer who was going to mix it was also about to embark on a long trip through Asia. Ideally I would've liked Tami to come and sing the chorus, but her travel north was impossible to arrange on time, so Gabriel volunteered to jump on the mic and save the song. To make matters worse I got sick with the flu but I didn't wanna abandon our project, we had only one day left to finish the recording and I went to the studio with the flu and recorded those three tongue-twisting verses with a lot of interruptions to cough, sneeze and blow my nose. Hence, my voice sounds completely different, compared to "Cumbia Nena" the other track where I rap on this release. Still, we decided to keep it, because our only other option was to delay the release by three or fourth months more, and considering some of the songs, like the original "Salchichón Primavera" had been recorded in 2010, we didn't feel like pushing this back any longer.
Following the collage aesthetics imposed by the "linyera" music production style and the cover art of the release I had the idea of doing a zero-budget do-it-yourself video for "Alta Farra" with the song's lyrics on the screen, to help people understand, at least partially, what's going on, because I realized, for the untrained ear and/or the non-Spanish-speaking foreigner, it'd be impossible to appreciate it. So, using self-photos taken with the laptop's webcam, plus a bunch of photos from my own personal collection and plenty more stolen from the internet, I put together in a couple of weeks this overwhelming visual collage. That's it for now. Hope you enjoy the video and remember the EP is available now.

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