A Combination of Hot Sounds

By mixing musical styles, these new CDs create something new yet familiar

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr
Published on LatinoLA: November 6, 2000

A Combination of Hot Sounds

With so much Latino music being released, it's becoming exceedingly harder to keep up with the new titles and artists, let alone the type of music they represent. As one explores the breadth of music that is available, unfamiliar styles such as punta, vallento, fado or jarocho can be easily overlooked and passed over in favor of something familiar, like romantica or rock en espa?ol.
And then there's those artists that challenge us even further, by combining musical genres to create something new, yet somewhat familiar.
Take note of these recent releases that combine musical styles, some more successfully than others. All will, however, reward you in some way by opening your ears and your expanding your mind.
"Mardi Gras Mambo" by ?Cubanismo! (Hannibal, 2000)
Combine the familiar Cuban sounds of son, mambo, cha-cha-cha, danzon and timba with the funky New Orleans musical traditions of second line marches, R & B, Dixieland jazz, swamp blues, and Mardi Gras chants and what do you get? One of the year's most eclecticly vibrant musical stews, as one of Cuba's foremost bands, led by trumpeter Jesus Alema?y, tears it up with some of New Orlean's premier musicians, creating a melting pot that is sure to conjure up the spirits on both sides of the Caribbean.
Bourbon St. hits the Malec?n in this collection of remakes and originals, as New Orleans African American traditions meld excitingly, almost effortlessly with Afro-Cuban instrumentation. Standards like Allen Tousaint's "Mother In Law" are given the Cubanismo treatment, a rich, rythmic and highly danceable energy that brings a smile to one's face and a stride to one's step.
Seductive vocals by Cubanismo members Rolo Martinez and Rafael Duany share the spotlight with the powerful vocals of pint-sized John Bout?, who damn near blows out the speakers in the opening chants of "Shallow Water Suite." Cubanismo leader Alema?y doesn't step out for too many solos on this CD, but he does lay down a scorcher on "Gumbo Son." "Mardi Gras Mambo" brings together Havana and New Orleans, two sister cities with a sinful past, in a hot cultural exchange that will get you through the cold days to come.
"More Grip" by Sidestepper (Palm Pictures, 2000)

Mix the heat and humidity of Colombia's most vibrant and combustible singers and intrumentalists -- including Bloque vocalist Ivan and Andrea Echeverri from rock en espa?ol sensation Aterciopelados -- with the beat of London-bred drum & bass and you get something new, yet familiar.
Call it 21st Century salsa.
Produced by Richard Blair, who in the early 90's turned a two-week stay in Colombia into a three year residency, Sidestepper creates a musical revolution that from the first cut delivers an infectious energy that refuses to slow down. Wrapping playful vocals and live instruments around devastating bass lines, the music flows directly to the soul.
Surprisingly playful, yet rich with technical proficiency, "More Grip" dares you to sit still. When things get kind of quiet down here at LatinoLA, it just takes a taste of "Hoy Tenemos" and "Bacaloa Sala'o" to get the spirit moving once again, sudando, sudando
"Girlfight" Various Artists (Capitol, 2000)
In keeping with the gritty Nuyorican world portrayed in film that was a hit at several film festivals, this soundtrack collection captures the Latino and urban musical fusion that is dominating the streets. The hard beats of East Coast Latino hip hop predominates, including tracks from Fat Joe, MC Cuban Link and Remy Martin. All three were compatriots of the Big Punisher, breakout Latino hip hop artist who died earlier this year.
The West Coast is represented by Dilated Peoples and Santana, who adds his first release since "Supernatural" to the proceedings with the instrumental "Olympic Festival."
Here's a review of the movie, contributed by Amigo Jeff Avila: "Girlfight was a great movie, very inspirational, not only because it showed how a young woman's inner drive can overcome all doubters, but also because it was a beautiful (and accurate) portrayal of the grassroots, amateur boxing world. The gritty, inner-city gyms and daily sacrifice are what boxing is all about, and very different from the pathetic condition of professional boxing."
"Viva Mexico" by Luis Cobos (Universal Music Latino, 2000)
Luis Cobos is one of the world's most renowned orchestra directors, well appreciated for his versatility and talent. In this CD he pays homage to his birthplace with a respectful yet surprisingly complicated collection that draws from the various regions and musical traditions of Mexico.
Leading a lush orchestra recorded in London's Abbey Road Studio, Cobos explores his roots, beginning with the medley "Los Huapangos," which recalls the simplicity of familiar melodies, magnified a hundred-fold with the power that only a 100 plus-member orchestra could bring. The title cut "Viva Mexico" is given a Gipsy Kings meets Carlos Vives treatment, as the lyrics explore the panorama of the multi-faceted country:
Sones, huapangos
Corridos y rancheras se nos van
Flores amuzgas: cuando regreseran?
Huichol, Tarasco
Nixteco, Tarahumara y Otomi
Las tradiciones deben sobrevivir

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