Monday, July 31, 2006

Layout Probs

I've added a cool new feature that plays all songs instantly on the page. Just press this button: .

If you experience layout problems, please let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hot Havana Nights

We all know Cuba is a magical country, which can never be described in one, ten or even a hundred blog posts. And Cuban music has been very malrepresented on this site (mostly because the music scene is a little more difficult to access from the other end of the world, comparing to other latin countries). This post will try to rectify that lack of attention with a whole load of Cuban mp3s, straight from the streets of Havana.

After three weeks of travelling around the western part of the island, taking in the fiestas in honor of July 26th (Revolution Day), the first conclusion has to be: reggaeton is everywhere. Wandering through the picturesque streets of the enigmatic capital, the breeze is soothed with the famous beat emerging from windows, sidewalk stereos, bicicle taxis, etc. Girls merely six years old move their bellies like professional dancers, boys repeat their favorite raps word for word on trains returning from the beach. Don Omar and Daddy Yankee dominate radios and nightclubs, though Cuban artists get a lot of attention too. Example: Eddy-K ft. Haila with "Entrale". Even big salsa and timba artists like Paulo FG and Bamboleo catch up with the hype, resulting in a typically Cuban variety of tropically flavoured reggaeton. In my opinion one of the best latin songs I've heard recently: "Te Boté" by Paulo FG. You'll recognize Roldan (see also this post) of globally popular hiphop formation Orishas in the chorus. (By the way, if you don't own A Lo Cubano, the must-have Orishas debut, buy it now!).

"El Zorreo" by Bamboleo (a salsa formation which includes above mentioned singer Haila) was a certain floorfiller at the numerous open air salsa parties. I admit at first the song sounds a little unpolished, but I guarantee the addictive melody will be in your head whole summer.

¡Esto será tu castigo, por lo que hiciste conmigo!
I'm not a big salsa fan, but I like the salsa cubana more than the New York or Puerto Rican varieties. Maybe it's because Cuban salsas are less romantic? Or more sensual? Or more rhytmic? Fact is that you just have to move to songs like "No Tengo La Culpa" (El Clan) or "Esta Es Mi Charanga" (Charanga Habanera).
PS: I know Los Van Van are massively popular inside and outside the country, but the few songs I've heard didn't really convince me.

Dozens of bands in restaurants and bars keep the son alive, but sadly they aim for tourist dollars (by playing the same Buena Vista Social Club songs over and over again) instead of being innovative.
(I might do a special on guajiro natural Polo Montañez one of these days though!)

Nueva Trova
Trova is a less popular, more poetic form of bringing traditional Cuban songs. Using voices and an acoustic guitar, trovadores are real songcrafters who specialize in emotionally moving people with the simplicity of their songs. A lively café scene in most provincial capitals (there's always a Casa de la Trova, Cafe Cantante or Casa de la Musica nearby) keeps the music alive, and if you're lucky you'll spend an unforgettable evening submerged in subtle guitar arpeggios and emotionally broken voices. Pablo Milanés is one of the founding fathers of the genre, and "Yo No Sé" is his latest song (I think).

Though I haven't been to Oriente, origin most of Afro-Cuban music, "Añoranza por la Conga" by Sur Caribe came to my attention for being so different compared to other latin music. A very African rhythm, but a latin way of singing combine to something quite unique I never heard before in Latin America. They call it Conga, but I don't know if this music has to do something with the ridiculous line dance. I imagine it has a more religious meaning, referring to Santería, a fusion between African Yoruba religion and Spanish catholicism.


Eddy-K ft. Haila - Entrale mp3 video
Paulo FG ft. Roldan - Te Boté mp3 video
Bamboleo - El Zorreo mp3 buy@iTunes
El Clan - No Tengo La Culpa mp3 video
Charanga Habanera - Esta Es Mi Charanga mp3
Pablo Milanés - Yo No Sé mp3 buy@iTunes
Sur Caribe - Añoranza por la Conga mp3

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Cuba Bella

On holiday till the first week of August!

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Merengue: Victor Manuelle, El Faraon, El Jeffrey, Limi-t 21, La Makina

The ¡Arriba los Latinos! series comes to a premature end with the elimination of Argentina in the quarter finals of the World Cup... I was really hoping one of the latino teams would make it to the final!
Anyway, the heat wave here in western Europe begs for tropical rhythms... Here's enough merengue to keep you going all summer.

Ballad and salsa singer Victor Manuelle is not usually associated with merengue, but in "El Pelele" his vocal talents support a young talent named El Faraón. I have to admit not everything about this song is clear to me.. why does Manuelle go merengue? Who is El Faraón? What does "pelele" mean anyway? I do know that this song is best enjoyed on a hot beach party, while the sun sets, with a sensual female/male body dancing against you, and an ice cold drink in your hand.

Dominican merenguero El Jeffrey has had his share of problems lately. His manager, his promotor, and thirteen of his musicians left him, only to form a new band with young merengue singer Darlyn. But he hasn't shown defeat, a few days ago he announced that he's working on three new albums (one merengues, one bachatas and one baladas). He's even found a new band, only days after his old compañeros left him. Now he's uniting Dominican artists to promote the merengue genre, as reggaeton and latin hip hop are proving to be increasingly popular among Dominican youth, at the expense of the country's traditional genres.
His album Mi Vida is still selling good however, and "Sufriendo De A Duro" is being played a lot in the Dominican Republic. Enjoy!

You might remember Limi-t 21 of El Baile Pegao, a song which they called merenguetón. On "A La Nena Le Gusta", they continue in the same mix of genres: fast merengue interrupted by a booming reggaeton beat. It might not be the most sophisticated song you heard, both lyrically and musically, but it's plain good fun!

And we end this tropical post with La Mákina from Puerto Rico, who add "Toda Mi Vida" to a long list of great merengue annex love songs. A bit melancholic even... A perfect soundtrack to a soaring hot summer!

Victor Manuelle ft. El Faraón - El Pelele mp3
El Jeffrey - Sufriendo De A Duro mp3
Limi-t 21 - A La Nena Le Gusta mp3 buy@iTunes
La Mákina - Toda Mi Vida mp3 buy@iTunes

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