Saturday, December 22, 2012

TOP-11 LATIN BUT COOL TRACKS OF 2012

As usual, the criteria used to select these songs is  purely based on my own experience as DJ, playing these songs at my sets during different parties in 2012 and judging their impact in the crowd after hand-picking them based exclusively my very own personal taste. Needless to say, only dance-oriented music makes it into this list, which is only a small fraction of the wide range of music I listen to on a daily basis. Extra features, like a dope video or the song being available on vinyl always add points to get into this ranking. 

1.- Elmayonesa - La Guaymallenina

I don't understand why isn't everybody else going crazy for this track. It was definitely the biggest surprise from 2012 for me and the track I enjoyed playing the most in my sets. The lyrics, the beat, the synths, the video, there's nothing I dislike about this, except for the fact that it wasn't pressed on vinyl. Plus, it's free! How come I haven't heard any other DJ play this yet? 


2.- Los Master Plus - El Gran Vacilón
You'll notice there're a lot of covers in this year's top-11 and that's because I've been playing a lot for a culturally mixed crowd, more leaning towards the mainstream, where familiar tunes with an exotic twist always work the best. Of course, I always rather spin the Latinized covers of said familiar tunes. This one here was the one that worked the best on the dancefloors. Plus, the lyrics are absurd and hilarious and I saw these guys play it live and they killed it. 

3.- Alika - Jenjibre
Best video of the year would go for this Uruguayan-born rapper who built her successful solo career in Argentina around reggae and dancehall (and some ñu-cumbia collaborations). Besides the mind-blowing video, everything about this song is on point, her rhymes, her flow, the beat, etc. Excellent. 

4.- Danay Suarez & Los Aldeanos - Check La Rima 
And here's another cover of a familiar Anglo rap song in a Latinized version, but a lot less ironic. Some of the best Cuban rappers got together for this improvised studio session under the guidance of UK's Gilles Peterson and the result is a delight to all the senses from beginning to end. I said it last year and I still stand by it, Danay Suarez is the best Spanish-language female MC, worldwide. 

5.- Campo - Cumbio
The song that gave birth to the whole Campo solo project is also, in my opinion, the best one in the album (but that was a really hard choice, because, like I pointed out on the previous top-11, I love the whole album). The lyrics make little, if any, sense, but the singing style, so British (even though the singer is Uruguayan), somehow perfectly matches the cumbia beat and all of a sudden a whole new genre is born.   

6.- Los TransatlánticosLa Receta
Yet another Latinized cover, or semi-cover maybe, this time of a classic dancehall song. The video, however, doesn't live up to the song's incredible dance-floor igniting potential. I played it to all kinds of audiences and everybody loves it. 

7.- Los Míticos Del Ritmo - Otro Muerde El Polvo
Of all the songs listed so far, this one is the only one that's available on vinyl, that I know off. Another Latinized cover, this time of Queen's funkiest tune. The rest of the album wasn't bad at all, but every time I grab it, I instinctively go for this track and forget about the rest. 

8.- Ana Tijoux - Shock (Captain Planet Remix)
In its original version, "Shock" was a really pretty good song, but it wouldn't make anybody dance. The only chance my friend Ana Tijoux had of entering this top-11 was with a remix and who's a better remixer nowadays than Captain Planet? I mean, this guy has the midas touch. I wish Ana was more open to explore the dance potential of her rapping and doing collaborations with producers like this one. 

9.- The Funk Ark – El Rancho Motel
Nice instrumental soul-cumbia from the funkiest white guys band ever. Produced by Grupo Fantasma's Adrián Quesada, The Funk Ark's latest album is not really Latin But Cool per se, because it's not truly Latin, but it's plenty of cool. I also saw them live doing some kick-ass chicha covers that would be dope if they recorded and released. 

10.- Mati Zundel - Señor Montecostez 
This one was picked last year for best video and now it enters the best song ranking because the album came out in 2012. The song was also included in the Future Sounds Of Buenos Aires compilation, albeit, with a misspelling on the album back-cover (senior?). 

11.- Orion & King Louie - Tin Tin (Peligrosa Remix)
DJ Sabo's boutique label started pressing vinyl again (yay!), and earlier this year they released this moombahton EP comp. As you know I wasn't one to jump onto the buzzed-out Moombah passing fad (a "genre" with the life span of a twitter hashtag), but there're a few tracks I always play on my sets, this one being one of them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

MARTIN LOPEZ Y SUS ESTRELLAS-Cocinando (Masstropicas, 2012)

It took me a while to get around to listen to this one but I finally played it in its entirety yesterday and I ended up liking it. 
Thing is, coming from Peru and pressed by Masstropicas, I was expecting something more in the lines of chicha and psychedelic ayahuasca-infused sounds. This has very little to do with that, there's a tiny bit of cumbia, but it's overall a concoction of tropical rhythms that leans heavily towards Cuba more than Colombian. Yes, there's some descarga, son, guaguancó and all that pre-salsa Cuban music that I'm not really into and that was the main reason it took me such a long time to actually play the whole LP.
Martín López, I'm told, went on to play chicha with Grupo Naranja after this, and legend claims he was a cop by day and a musician by night, or something. Thing is with all this chicha fever that spread worldwide in the last decade we tend to forget that in Perú, even to this days, salsa and Cuban music are extremely popular. In some areas way more than chicha. 
I was just talking about this with a group of Peruvian girls I met at the airport the other day on my way back from South America. We started chatting about music and I mentioned I played som chicha on my DJ sets, they were quick to point out that chicha was just a minor phenomenon in a specific demographic (people of aboriginal descent from the jungle and sierras) and even though in recent years it became more accepted by the Eurocentric big city youth (thanks in part to the above mentioned international interest, but also to younger bands like Bareto) it's still looked down on by the middle classes who are a lot more permeable to modern cumbia (known locally as technocumbia) and salsa. 
One of the girls told me of a recent visit of Lady Gaga to Lima that was a complete failure (they ended up giving tickets away for free to fill the place) because that same night there was a massive salsa festival taking place near by. 
I don't know where I'm going with this. Just trying to put this in context, I guess. Anyway, Cocinando was recorded in the late '60s, early '70s and it was never released abroad until now, thanks to Masstropicas who remastered and reissued the album in an impeccable vinyl LP worth adding to the collection of anybody interested in exploring the tropical side of South American music or any DJ who enjoys spinning some kick-ass descargas.

Buy it HERE.    

Thursday, December 20, 2012

TOP-11 LATIN BUT COOL ALBUMS OF 2012

1.-Campo - Campo
Country: Uruguay.
Label: Bajofondo Presenta.
Genre: Subtropical pop, post-electrotango, ñu-cumbia.
Format: CD/Digital only, unfortunately.
Why: Even though it was released in Uruguay in 2011 it didn't make it into last year's top 11 because it came too late in December. The international release didn't happen until summer '12. By far it's the album I listened to the most during 2012 and there's not one song I dislike of it. Both "Cumbio" and "La Marcha Tropical" are some of the best produced ñu-cumbia tracks ever. Can't believe some people are still sleeping on this one. 


2.- Ondatrópica - Ondatrópica
Country: Colombia/UK.
Label: Soundway.
Genre: Retro-ñu-cumbia, Afro-Colombian Soul.
Format: Tripple Vinyl plus 7'' bonus single. Best packaging ever.

Why: The most historically significant album of 2012. Don't trust any End of The Year list that doesn't include this record. In the future this will be digger's gold in the same way the records that inspired it are gold to the diggers behind this: Quantic and Frente Cumbiero. As a plus, it includes the first guest appearance of Ana Tijoux pressed on wax.



3.- Los Transatlánticos - First Trip
Country: Colombia/Germany.
Label: BBE.
Genre: Ñu-cumbia meets transglobal bass.
Format: CD/Digital.

Why: If you were disappointed by Bomba Estéreo's latest release, look no further. This is the album Bomba Estéreo should have recorded. It has all the grit and the bass and the irresistible global dancehall beats Elegancia Tropical was missing. It may not have Li Saumet's sexiness and charisma but it makes up with some dope collaborations and remixes. If it was available on vinyl it would've been featured even higher on this ranking. Just saying...  

4.- Bocafloja - Patologías del Invisble Incómodo 
Country: Mexico/USA.
Label: Quilombo Arte.
Genre: Hip-hop.
Format: Digital.

Why: I still like purist hip-hop en español sometimes. When its done correctly. Bocafloja is Mexico's Talib Kweli, the rapper for the back-pack crowd that digs soulful samples and lyrics full of intellectually pretentious, cryptic, tongue-twisting verses. Plus, there's a girl's ass on the cover and not even one booty-shaking beat. 


5.- Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas - Chances 
Country: Argentina.
Label: Sony Music
Genre: Funk, rap, rock.
Format: CD/Digital.
Why: Back in 1991/94 I was their biggest fan. Then I got annoyed by their new audience of mainly teenager girls who admired more their looks than their music and I turned my back on them. Then they broke up. Then I sampled them in pretty much all my linyera mixtapes. Now they are back and they're funkier than ever. If it was available on vinyl I'd pay top dollar for it and I'd be spinning it in all my sets. Since it's not, I just listen to it on my headphones while I count the nipples exposed on the album cover.  


6.- Mati Zundel - Amazónico Gravitante 
Country: Argentina.
Label: ZZK Records/Waxploitation.
Genre: Ñu-cumbia, digital folklore.
Format: Double Vinyl LP.
Why: Cumbia is still present, but there's way more Andean folk and ayahuasca-inspired trippy tunes here. Unlike his previous alter-ego Lagartijeando, Mati Zundel's stuff is less dance-floor oriented and a lot more centered around well crafted songs and it's in the songs ("Por El Pueblo") where the album finds its best moments. 



7.- Chicha Libre - Canibalismo 
Country: USA.
Label: Barbès Records.
Genre: Chicha revival.
Format: Vinyl LP.
Why: They started doing covers of chicha classics, they ended up writing their own new chicha classics which had nothing to envy from the genre's bests. The opening banger "La Plata" was an instant favorite. Makes me wanna go down to the Peruvian Amazon jungle riding a helicopter while blasting the cumbia cover of Wagner's "The Ride of The Valkyries".


8.- Kumbia Queers - Pecados Tropicales 
Country: Argentina/Mexico
Label: Confort Zone.
Genre: Cumbia-punk.
Format: Vinyl LP.

Why: I love these girls to death. For a second I thought this third album was a fail because it took some unprecedented directions (they went from doing cumbia cover of punk songs to do punk covers of cumbia songs) with uneven results, however, once I saw them perform it live it all made absolute sense. It's fucking genius from beginning to end. 





9.- Los Míticos Del Ritmo - Los Míticos Del Ritmo 
Country: Colombia/UK
Label: Soundway.
Genre: Instrumental cumbia.
Format: Vinyl LP.
Why:  The cover of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" in instrumental cumbia form is a must in all my DJ sets, and it's welcomed by all audiences, from Gringos to Latinos, from underground to mainstream heads. The rest of the album is not bad either, it's just that it's really hard to compete with Ondatrópica, released just a few months apart. 

10.- Batida - Batida
Country: Portugal/Angola
Label: Soundway.
Genre: Kuduro.
Format: Vinyl LP.
Why: After Don Omar put the word kuduro in the mouths of all moronic mainstream Latinos, some thought the Angolan genre would have more chances to cross over to the Latin dancefloors. However, 99.99% of those Latino club-goers who sing along to "La mano arriba..." have absolutely no idea what kuduro means, nor do they care to find out. For the other 0.01% this is pure beauty.


11.- Various Artists - Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
Country: Argentina
Label: ZZK Records/Waxploitation.
Genre: Ñu-cumbia and beyond.
Format: Double Vinyl LP.
Why: If it wasn't for the fact that many of the tracks are repeats, this compilation would be way higher on the list. It's the fact that it was released in a delicious double vinyl LP what makes it stand out, since the majority of those tracks were not available in that format until now. If it was digital only I'd say skip it, you probably already have most of the songs anyway. Since it's vinyl, I say it's a must have.