Sunday, April 23, 2006

Benefit Concerts

Colombian popstar Juanes performed at a very special location last week: the European Parliament in Brussels. He did a three-song concert to support the EU campaign against landmines, being one of the international faces of the Colombia Sin Minas campaign (together with Shakira). You can watch concert fragments (preceded by long speeches in Spanish) here.

Also, on May 24 Juanes will host a special LA concert to benefit Colombia Sin Minas, with Alejandro Sanz, Ana Gabriel and Carlos Vives performing as well.

His compatriota Shakira will also perform at a unique event: the Soccer World Cup final in Berlin. She'll sing her latest hit Hips Don't Lie together with Wyclef Jean (the song is still featured on the playlist on your right), before the final match kicks off.

And last but not least, she's also planning a big benefit concert, a "latin american Live Aid", for 2007. She says international aid is too focused on Africa and Asia, and empoverished Latin America needs help too.

Compleet naast de kwestie wil ik hier ook even de aandacht vestigen op de Hip-Hop & Reggaeton Expo in Bergen komende vrijdag (28 april). Onder andere Papi Sanchez, Master Joe & OG Black en Nederlanders Ghetto Flow en KLibre zullen er optreden. Tickets 29€ vvk, 40€ add.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rock: Los Bunkers, Motel

Los Bunkers have seen a steep rise over the last few years: from playing Kinks and Beatles covers at Chilean pub gigs in 2000, to a pan-American fourth album release in 2005 (Vida de Perros). The album sounds fresh and straightforward, crystal-clear guitars accented by smooth keyboards or heavy solos when necessary. Maybe Alvaro Lopez isn't the best singer, but his flaws are compensated by the fabulous guitar interaction between Mauricio and Francisco Durán. "Llueve Sobre La Ciudad" is the first single off the album.

Motel are another poppy rock band, from Mexico, together with Argentina the only Latin American country with a commercial music industry. Which means they have a well-oiled promotional machine to support them, and with results: it has been ages since a non-ballad, non-salsa song reached #1 on Mexican radio charts, but Motel's first single did it. "Dime Ven" has a clever guitar riff and a catchy chorus, quite different of the other songs on their self-titled debut album (which is composed of mostly Coldplay or Travis influenced poprock, and even a few unnecessary ballads). Rodrigo Dayila's voice is probably more suited for the ballads, but he manages allright in the rock songs too. We'll hear a lot from this band, I predict!

Los Bunkers - Llueve Sobre La Ciudad mp3 video buy@iTunes
Motel - Dime Ven mp3 video

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Salsa: Michael Stuart

Long-time readers of this blog might remember the reggaeton anthem Mayor Que Yo, with the crème de la crème of reggaeton artists on the mic (Baby Ranks, Hector El Father,Daddy Yankee and Wisin y Yandel), a very contagious chorus sung by merenguero Tony Tun Tun, and indian-influenced beats and samples by producers Luny Tunes.

Puertorican singer and actor Michael Stuart has now issued a very nice salsa version of the song, very melodious (especially the parts he improvised himself) and well-thought of. Near the ending things heat up in a trumpet extravaganza. Hot and sweaty salsa nights guaranteed!

The track comes off Back to da Barrio, an entire album of reggaeton covers, including a guaguanco version of Pobre Diabla (Don Omar), a salsa versions of Noche de Travesura (Hector ft. Divino) and a jala jala remix of Ven Bailalo (Khriz y Angel). It might be a clever way to take advantage of the reggaeton hype, but Stuart proves with his skilled reworks that these songs sound as great with fresh tropical percussion as with heavy beats. 

Michael Stuart - Mayor Que Yo mp3 buy@iTunes

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rock: Gustavo Cerati - Ahi Vamos

Argentinian guitarist Gustavo Cerati has gathered an impressive discography over the last 20 years: first as a member of Soda Stereo, one of the most popular latin rock bands of the eighties (8 era-defining CDs in ten years time), then 3 solo discs, and literally dozens of greatest hits collections, unplugged concerts, movie soundtracks, symphonic editions, collaborations and remix albums. And meanwhile he still found time to deliver groundbreaking producing work for artists like Babasonicos, Leo Garcia and Shakira.

No wonder that his latest solo album Ahi Vamos was eagerly anticipated in Latin America. As usual it's not an easy album, requiring a few times listening before the songs captivate you. But from the start it's clear that Cerati has again managed to keep up with contemporary music, of course adding his own personal twist to it. The first four tracks (Al Fin Sucede, La Excepcion, Uno Entre Mil, Caravana) feature fast British-influenced guitar riffs, a complete shift in genre from his last (mostly electronic) album. After that heavy intro, it's back to more familiar territory, namely eighties poprock (Lago En El Cielo, Me Quedo Aqui). His melancholic, almost theatrical voice still works very well in these songs. The only mistake on this album is called 'Dios Me Libre', a bad attempt to do punkrock.

Undoubtedly the best track on Ahi Vamos is "Crimen", the only song where Cerati uses a piano. It's irresitably beautiful, not only in the guitar-piano combination but also because of the lyrics.

¿Qué otra cosa puedo hacer?
Si no olvido, moriré
Y otro crimen quedará
Otro crimen quedará sin resolver

In short: a difficult album with a very specific sound, though after you heard it a few times you'll learn to love the melancholic athmosphere created by Cerati's eighties guitarplay.

US release is scheduled on april 20th. If you can't wait, there's an $18 import version on Amazon.

Gustavo Cerati - Crimen mp3 video buy@iTunes

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reggaeton: Local Talent

A big chunk of reggaeton!

Lets have a look at some local talent we've noticed lately. Latin American youth are growing very fond of reggaeton, and you can tell by the number of beginning rappers and DJs that the next generation is coming soon. Here are some fine examples:

Proyecto Suburbio are from Guatemala. They started out only 18 months ago, but they're already a certainty in Central American radio charts, all of their songs reaching #1. Though their producer (VIP) was already doing reggaeton back in the '90s (when it was still an underground movement), they only started Proyecto Suburbio as a 'joke', participating in an international talent contest which they unexpectedly won. Now, they've done shows with Don Omar, Hector y Tito, Ivy Queen, even Shaggy, and soon they'll be releasing their first album "Solo Clase". And it's not just hype: I like their polished, melodious reggaeton very much. "Mala Mujer" was one of their first hits (and the only song I could find).

Calle Ciega is big in Venezuela. The reggaeton boysband conquered the hearts of Venezolan girls with songs called "Tu y To" and "Como Te Extraña Mi Cama", but luckily the music doesn't coincide with their image. The latter song, for example, is quite danceable and very contagious. (If you want to have a good laugh, check out the video). Now they're ruling radio waves in Venzuela, Calle Ciega is looking for their first international successes by promoting their debut album "Una Vez Mas" all over Univision and Telemundo.

Croni-k scored a continent-wide hit with "(Shh Shh) Nadie Lo Sabrá", again a very contagious song with a more exotic, tropically influenced rhythm than standard reggaeton (notice the salsa piano). The six Chilean rappers have been around a little longer (you can tell by their less shabby website), and international success is already their part: from Bolivia to Mexico, you can buy their self-titled debut. Sadly not in the US or Europe, so we'll have to settle with this promotional video (not very woman-friendly, be warned).

Reggaeton is a men's world, but from the Canary Islands come K-Narias: female, confident and successful. The duo just released their album "40 entre las 2" (referring to their age, they're both 20). You can't really say that they have good voices (to make an understatement) but in Tenerife, it's all looks that matter. Luny Tunes produced their debut album, which includes songs featuring Julio Voltio, Don Chezina and Nicky Jam: it seems a lot of important people believe in the potential of K-Narias. Here's the single "No Te Vistas Que No Vas", not suprisingly about a confident and successful woman breaking up with her lousy boyfriend.

Proyecto Suburbio - Mala Mujer mp3
Calle Ciega - Como Te Extraña Mi Cama mp3 video
Croni-k - Shh Shh Nadie Lo Sabrá mp3
K-Narias - No Te Vistas Que No Vas mp3

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

R&B: Jean "On"

You don't see latin R&B artists that often (probably because in Latin America the "usual" romantic songs, without hiphop influence, still work). So when you only hear the eternally recycling black R&B on the radio, a little bit of latin flavor should come as a big relief.
Puertorican singer-songwriter Jean debuts with "On" next week, not a complete success but it has a few nice tracks. In Spanish, English or mixed, the album surely sets a mood (mellow and relaxed, lots of girls dancing in the swimming pool, piña colada within reach... i.e. your average Nelly or R. Kelly videoclip). But I wouldn't say his songs are special or new, it's just a Spanish version of the same afro-american R&B songs. Especially the 'slow' ballad songs are horribly cliché.

Big exception is "Juegas Con Fuego (Playing With Fire)". The violin intro, the guitar sample and the bongo rhythm are definetly something different. Sadly lyrics are still uninspired, both in Spanish and English, though I can imagine you won't notice that while you're sweating on the dancefloor.

Jean - Juegas Con Fuego mp3 video buy@iTunes

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Concertnieuws: Pleasure Paas Party

Zondag 16 april organiseert Pleasure Caribbean & Latin Magazine zijn jaarlijkse Pleasure Paas Party, het grootste caribbean event in Nederland. In vier zalen treden een paar hele grote namen van de latinomuziek op:

  • Don Omar, de koning van de reggaeton, treedt voor de eerste keer op in Nederland (en laat hopelijk een paar nummers van zijn nieuwe CD horen)
  • Gilberto Santa Rosa, de immens populaire puertoricaanse salsero
  • Willy Panamá belooft high energy hot salsa te brengen
  • No Game, de populairste Antilliaanse band van het moment
en nog vele anderen. Het volledige programma vind je hier. Place to be is De Uithof in Den Haag, van 20 tot 04 uur.

Er vallen zelfs prijzen te winnen: een reis naar de Antillen of een meet & greet met Don Omar.

Tickets kosten 35€ in voorverkoop (+servicekosten), 40€ aan de deur.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006


After visiting Sevilla last week, I can certainly say this: flamenco lives. Andalucia (the most southern part of Spain) breathes flamenco, being an essential part of the regions tradition and pride. But it doesn't keep to tradition: in cities, flamenco bars and liveshows draw spectators daily, not just tourists but also Spanish youth. If you step into a café, not only will you hear the latest Madonna and Black Eyed Peas song, but you'll hear Spaniards singing along with the latest flamenco-pop hit (often a mix between traditional guitar-only flamenco and electro/pop songs). There are even night clubs where girls in special flamenco dresses dance passionately all night long. (If you want to see for yourself, the last week of april is a very good time, when Sevilla is soothed with flamenco performances during the Feria de Abril.)

Traditional flamenco music involves mostly an acoustic guitar, clapping hands and a gypsy voice lamenting in long hauls. If you're not into Spanish culture, and not impressed by finger-breaking guitar play, traditional songs probably won't appeal to you. Legends Paco de Lucía, Manolo Sanlucar, Camarón de la Isla and many more have free samples at the Spanish iTunes store.

Modern artists add a new dimension to the traditional gyspy music. Niña Pastori, for instance, combines classical guitar with modern pop elements. Her latest album Joyas Prestadas (selling a lot in Spain at this moment) is a collection of pop song covers: Alejandro Sanz, Maná and Juan Luís Guerra are some of the covered artists. Chambao add electronic elements, forming what they call "flamenco chill". "Pokito a Poko" is a nice example of their music: focus on athmosphere, though catchy and well sung. Even though it sometimes sounds a bit cheap (too much echoes), I kinda like the song. Maybe it's the travel memories or the Spanish wine :)

More information about flamenco (both modern and traditional) on these excellent websites: De Flamenco, Flamenco Sound or Flamenco World.

Chambao - Pokito a Poko mp3 video buy@iTunes

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Absolut Kravtiz featuring Luny Tunes

Rockstar Lenny Kravitz has recorded a song for Absolut Vodka, supposedly because "the creative nature of the brand inspires artists to create their own interpretation of Absolut", but we all know Kravitz gets paid lotsa dollars for this prostitution of music and image.

But I'm not here to criticize American rockers :) This Absolut Kravitz project (with a very nice website indeed) also gives an opportunity to 10 locally known deejays to show their skills worldwide, in 10 remixes of the song. Examples: Jazzanova for Germany, Latinsizer for Mexico, Chromeo for Canada, and... reggaeton producers Luny Tunes for Puerto Rico. To be honest I don't like the orginal song nor the Luny Tunes remix, but it's positive that these two geniouses get some international attention. They've produced about every reggaeton hit you've heard (Gasolina, Dale Don Dale, Baila Morena, Mayor Que Yo,...), took the genre to another level and opened the way to global exposure.

In the next few months you'll probably hear the name Luny Tunes more often, as they are collaborating with other mainstream artists as well. Jennifer Lopez, Christina Milan, the Black Eyed Peas, and many more are interested in working with the magical producers duo. Even Paris Hilton (yes, Paris Hilton) has contacted them to provide some beats. Let's wait and see!

You can download the orginal song, the remixes and videos for all 10 versions on the Absolut Kravitz site.

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Merengue: Los Toros Band

It's been a while since we've heard from Los Toros Band. The Dominicans had some internal struggles, after Hector Acosta (one of the fifteen members of the group) left the group early March because of disagreements with the financial administration. Acosta stated that "a band playing at so many parties should be swimming in dollars, but it isn't". He now has his own band, which remarkably includes twelve other Toros members. The remaining members needed a good song to compensate all that negative publicity, and "Dale Con To'" fits the description perfectly. It's merengue at it's best, a fast-paced rhythm with energetic lyrics, confirming Los Toros Band as an institute of latin music.

Los Toros Band - Dale Con To' mp3

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