Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ORQUESTA EL MACABEO-Salsa Bestial (Vampisoul, 2013)

I used to DJ a lot of gigs for lame-ass audiences of mixed Latinos with no musical education beyond trite classics and current top40 cheesy hits. So I got used to dealing with the most annoying requests and just for fun I'd make up fake rules concerning the music I play and I don't play, just to fuck with these moron's minds a bit. Whenever somebody would come and ask me for some "salsita" or "un merenguito" (and request it like that, in diminutive, which makes it even more annoying) I'd say something like "sorry, I don't play songs that include the word candela in their lyrics." I could've also said something like "I don't play songs with lyrics that rhyme the word bailar with gozar," with the exact same purpose. So it happens that those are words and combinations of words that are extremely abused in salsa and a lot of other Latin-Caribbean music, including reggaetón, and they hurt my Argentine ears. (Now that I think about it I should've also have a rule against songs that rhyme the words amor and dolor, and in one move get rid of half of all songs ever written by Maná).
The thing is, growing up in Argentina I was as detached from salsa as an average midwestern gringo is detached from Cambodian folk. Meaning, I didn't listen to any salsa, I didn't know any salsa, I never danced to any salsa and it never bothered me because nobody else around me cared about salsa either. It was never on the menu. So I didn't actually hate it, it was just completely outside of my musical/cultural spectrum. I only started hating salsa once I moved to the United States and was automatically thrown into the "Latino" segment of the country's demographics and I realized how salsa music and dance were so intimately linked to this group of people I was suddenly associated with. "Oh, you're Latino! You must really know how to salsa, teach me!"
First of all, if something hurts my ears more than the word candela is people using salsa (or tango!) as a verb. You dance salsa, you sing salsa, you play salsa, you don't just salsa. Period. But, linguistic aberrations aside, what bothered me the most was that people assumed that because I was a Spanish-speaking immigrant I'd know how to dance to that music that was as foreign to me as it was to them.
Later as a DJ I began hating salsa even more because of the annoying requests and because of how playing salsa would ruin the flow of my DJ sets (as already explained on this other post).
Also because I didn't really know any good salsa.
As a stranger to the culture I had only been exposed to the most horrible side of it, the cheesiest crap ever made under the all-encompassing salsa umbrella. It took me many years and a lot of fight against my inner-demons of Argentine snobbism to reconcile with the idea that some salsa could, potentially, be listenable. Fast forward a few years more and voilà, I'm loving this salsa album, virtually from beginning to end. So I'm glad it reached me now and not five or six years ago when I would've probably dismiss it without giving it one chance.
Puerto Rico's Orquesta El Macabeo describes themselves, in their lyrics, as rockeros who play salsa, and they come to imprint salsa with some long-gone indie cred. They play hard, they have some memorable funky moments, their arrangements are beautiful and their lyrics deal with real, current issues that anybody (or at least me) could relate to, like you know, checking out the big boobs of that 17 year old girl at the supermarket when you're a married man. Best of all, I'm pretty sure I listened to the whole album without hearing the word candela once.
Following the example of other legit current salsa revivalists like Bio-Ritmo, Orquesta El Macabeo releases their music on vinyl. I reviewed their 7'' singles already in the past, now they have an LP, dropping soon on Vampisoul and I beg you to keep and eye open for this one and grab a copy if you see it at the record store. Even if you grew up ignoring and/or hating salsa.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love this, and this is the cutest album cover I have seen in a long time. Thanks for this find.