Monday, January 29, 2007

Salsa: Los Cocorocos

Los Cocorocos - Salsa meets Reggaeton - Domingo Quinones, Zion, Don Omar, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tego Calderon, Victor Manuelle
I'm in the mood for some salsa! You probably remember my raving review of Los Cocorocos, the ambitious salsa-reggaeton project trying to revive the atmosphere of Puerto RIcan salsa nightclubs in the 70's. "Dos Jueyes" is another great song off the album, pairing rapper Zion with experienced salsero Domingo Quiñones. Seems like Zion is enjoying himself very much, being able to show off his voice in a salsa tune rather than being limited by the conventions of reggaeton. Maybe he's missed his true calling? The song is very danceable, and lyrics are suitable to the dancefloor theme: "Two crabs can't live in the same cave", i.e. two guys can't have the same woman.

If you're in need of more Cocorocos, here's an exclusive behind-the-scenes video. See "Dos Jueyes" being performed live at the Latin Grammys afterparty, and hear Gilberto Santa Rosa, Domingo Quiñones, Zion, Pedro Brull, Voltío and Victor Manuelle speak about what the album means to them.

Domingo Quiñones & Zion - Dos Jueyes mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

Show Videos...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Site RSS Feed

All problems related to the RSS Feed should be solved now. Seems the feed URL changed after we switched to the new Blogger.

Other feed-related news: you can now receive new posts on La Onda in your mailbox. If you want to listen to the songs, you still have to come here though ;)

And if you want to keep track of the comments to a certain post, you can click the "Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)" link at the bottom of the page. So if you asked us something, the comments feed will tell you when we reply!

Show Videos...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pop/Rock: Hoja de Parra, Mancha de Rolando

Here's a straightforward pop song, mixing afro-latino and peruvian rhythms in a pop/rock setting. "Rumbos" by Hoja de Parra is about friends each choosing their own life, and the farewells that accompany those decisions. Sounds heavy, but the song is actually quite up-lifting and funky, a typical South-American hit.

"Cabrón" by Mancha de Rolando relies mostly on the music, something between country blues and mariachi ska. Lyrically it's quite monotonous, but there's a deeper message. Singer Negro keeps repeating

Ey, cabrón, where are you from? Eres distinto, por eso te matamos.
(Hey, bastard, where are you from? You're different, that's why we kill you.)

Almost like a mantra, provoking a scene somewhere in the desert, where a Minute Man finds a Mexican immigrant crossing the US border. After watching the video, other scenes come to mind: a conquistador killing native americanos, a gang member threatening someone from another barrio, or George Bush sending more troops to Iraq. A very universal song: we're different, accept it!

Hoja de Parra - Rumbos mp3 video
Mancha de Rolando - Cabrón mp3 video buy@Amazon

Show Videos...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hip Hop: Telmary - A Diario

Following my desperate call for Cuban salsa and timba CDs, music producer and fellow blogger Mister Bryans sent me a couple of Cuban CDs all the way from Canada. That deserves a BIG thank you!

The first album I'll be reviewing is by a young Cuban rapster called Telmary. A Diario is her first solo album, but she's no newbie in latin music: she's part of Interactivo, an artists collective which has created a totally new Cuban pop sound, mixing up all kinds of traditional and modern genres. It's timba rap, tumbao hip hop, jazz poetry, calle powerpop, or whatever you wanna call it. Other members of Interactivo are Descemer Bueno, founder of famous mestizo fusion band Yerba Buena, and Roberto Carcassés, Cuba's hottest producer of the moment, and winner of 3 Premios Cubadisco in 2006.

The first thing you'll notice is Telmary's distinct voice: soulful, deep, sometimes fast and agressive, sometimes soft and soothing. Bonus track "Sola" shows how strong her voice can be: even without instruments, she manages to captivate. On downbeat love songs (like "Pa'Que Vuelva") she's pure poetry, sexy poetry that is.
She can be dead serious, praying to santería gods (opening track "Rezo"), but most of the album is very joyful and positive, even the ballads. Lyrically this album is on a totally other level than 'just rap'. Street experience, love, religion, life wisdom, tradition are all processed into poetical rhymes, brought with a positive attitude and tons of conviction.

The party gets started with "Fiesta", guest rapper Athanai does a great job on the explosive chorus. I guarantee you won't get it out of your head. On "Ves" (video), producer Carcassés layers exotic breakbeats and a cool bass riff to the super fast raps of Telmary and Kumar (Interactivo member, of course). Same recipe on "Sin Control".

A Cuban album wouldn't be complete without some timba: "Qu'Equivocao" has salsa-style backing vocals and piano tunes. "You're so wrong about life, my love", she sings: any man leaving this woman must be wrong indeed. "Marilú" is an old Los Van Van song, with fist-in-the-air lyrics and a lovely bolero intermezzo.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Ojos de Brujo again (remember their special blend of flamenco from previous posts) on "Sueño Brujo". Both strong female voices wonderfully combine on this dreamy track. (Ojos de Brujo is about to release their album Techarí in the US, we'll have a contest soon!)

The second half of the album shows Telmary's soulful, more personal side: "Espiritual Sin Egoïsmo", "Libre", "Pa'Que Vuelva".. I especially like "Espiritual Sin Egoïsmo": a jazzy trumpet makes place for a fast drum & bass climax, and Telmary delivers her always-positive message with conviction.

On a less positive note: the two English songs, "Mr. God" and "Rastafashion". Stick to Spanish, girl, you just don't sound natural rapping in English! And maybe some other songs could use more structure. But those minor faults don't bother: A Diario is one of the most exciting projects to come out of Cuba lately.

PS: Of course the album is hard to get outside of Cuba and Canada, but a lot of songs can be found online: on Telmarys MySpace, the record label website, and YouTube. Enjoy!

Telmary ft. Ojos de Brujo - Sueño Brujo mp3 buy@Amazon

Show Videos...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Covers: Jorge Drexler, Los Van Van, Buena Vista Social Club

Could it be coincidence? This week I bumped into two latin covers of Radiohead's timeless ballad "High & Dry", off their 1995 debut album The Bends (video). It would be hard to improve the original, but both covers are a unique new take on the song, be sure to check them out.

The first one is by Jorge Drexler, a man of sensitive pop songs. Remember his contributions to the Motorcycle Diaries soundtrack, or "Que Bueno Que Bueno" (with Jarabe de Palo), my selection for best latin pop song of 2006.
His version of "High & Dry" is stripped down to voice and acoustic guitar, the first note instantly creating an intimate atmosphere. The Spanish accent, the soft guitar arpeggios and the minimalist feel of the song remind me a lot of José Gonzales. Great cover!

The other version is off the latest Buena Vista Social Club album (though not many of the original members remain). On Rhythms Del Mundo - Cuba legendary Cuban musicians collaborate with alt-rock Anglo acts, for charity. That gives you combinations like U2 and Coco Freeman, Coldplay or Arctic Monkeys in a groovy BVSC remix (video), and Los Van Van doing a serene Radiohead. It's an interesting concept, but most of the songs sound a bit artificial. Even the last recording of the late Ibrahim Ferrer couldn't really move me.
El Lele's version of "High & Dry" (definelty the best song on the album) is smooth latin jazz, spiced up with a few guitar samples. It's not difficult to imagine this song being a traditional Cuban ballad: the lyrics are translated very well, and the delicate piano competes with El Lele's strong, emotional voice for your undivided attention.

Yo viviré, en la soledad
Yo quedaré, en la soledad
This Afro-Latin gem certainly deserves a place on your iPod!

Update: more info on Rhythms del Mundo at Mister Bryans.

Jorge Drexler - High & Dry mp3 buy@iTunes (Europe) buy@Amazon
El Lele (Los Van Van) & Buena Vista Social Club - High & Dry mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

Show Videos...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rock: Molotov

Sad news from Mexico: Latin America's favorite mock-rock band Molotov is splitting. Officially the members couldn't agree anymore on the creative direction of the band, but there are rumors that Molotov owns their record label a lot of money, which could be another reason for the dissolution.

Ten years ago Molotov started playing cafés in Mexico City. Their combination of irony, provocation, criticism of government and contagious music quickly gained them fame and respect among the Mexican youth. Debut album ¿Donde Jugarán Las Niñas? (1997) caused massive controversy on its release, with the album cover deemed 'inappropriate' and the songs 'obscene' (with titles like "Chinga Tu Madre" and "Puto" (video) - translated as "Fuck Your Mother" and "Gay Prostitute"). The album title is also a parody on 'soft' Mexican rock legends Maná - they have an album called ¿Donde Jugarán Los Niños?.
Result: stores refused to sell the album, gay and lesbian right groups were protesting at concerts, and Molotov gained worldwide fame within weeks.

Afterwards Molotov released two more albums: Dance And Dense Denso (2003) including continent-wide hit "Frijolero" (one of the funniest songs I've ever heard, mocking the racist mentality of right-wing America - Grammy-winning video here); and Con Todo Respeto (2004), a tribute album with various covers. Musically they continue the Rage Against The Machine legacy of combining punk rock and rap into an explosive mixture. They also did the soundtrack for Y Tú Mamá También (actor Diego Luna called Molotov's separation "the most stupid decision of their life").

Clearly writing new material was not the primary focus, but keeping a tight tour schedule maintained their popularity, mainly in Mexico and the US. As it seems, that same tour schedule now caused frustration and fatigue among band members - add that to financial problems, and the separation is no surprise anymore.

It's not hard for me to select the best song out of their ten-year career. I've had loads of fun (back in Guatemala) with ska punk songs like the ones mentioned above, but both lyrically and musically "Gimme The Power" is just another level. Starightforward criticism of the Mexican government in aggressive raps, over a soft acoustic guitar and marimba chords, with an irresistible Spanglish chorus.
¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! Adios Molotov...

(Source: La Opinión Digital)

Molotov - Gimme The Power mp3 video buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

Show Videos...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pop News & Videos

A lot of movement in the latino pop business lately! Here's a roundup of the most important news:

Maybe you haven't noticed, but a lot of worldwide pop idols have latino roots (Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and of course Shakira). And while some of them choose to do nothing with their heritage (i.e. Christina), lately the trend seems to be going back to singing in Spanish. Ricky Martin issued an MTV Unplugged album mostly in Spanish last november, even collaborating with less famous (but very talented) latinos like La Mari (of Chambao) and Tommy Torres (video: "Tu Recuerdo"). Ricky's latest song "Pégate" (video) is so reminiscent of his hits back in the 90's, you just have to scream ¡Un Dos Trés!.
The new CD, together with his humanitarian work, even got him an award for Artist of the Year 2006 from the Latin Artists Recording Academy. But looking back at all the good stuff we heard last year, I think that award should have gone to new talent, not to an established star like RIcky...

Another pop icon who's well aware of her roots is Jennifer Lopez. J-Lo, recently elected Most Influential Hispanic by People Magazine, is planning to release an all-Spanish album this year. "Que Hiciste" (video) is the first single. It's not very original, sadly.. she could have done something special for the latinos!

Nelly Furtado has brought us songs in Spanish before (two with Juanes, and one with Calle 13) but apprently now she's working on an album entirely in Spanish. We can only dream of Timbaland producing some reggaeton beats...

Even Beyoncé is marketing herself into the latino audience. Miss Knowles has recorded a Spanish version of her latest single "Irreplaceable". She said she thinks Spanish is sexy, and "Imprescindible" (video) is only the first crossover of many to come. She even talks of recording a song with Shakira, whom she admires for her "great sound and sexy moves".

Shakira herself recently returned a favor for Alejandro Sanz by joining him on his new album (like he did on Fijación Oral in 2005). "Te Lo Agradezco" (video) is a typical Sanz song: a bit too soft and romantic for me, though I always liked his flamenco-style vocal improvisation. Shakira's whispering is quite irresistible, and she looks extraordinarily beautiful in the video (kinda reminds me of mi novia ;))

(Sources: VivirLatino, Latin Gossip, Latin Notes Now)

PS: Writing this post, I promised myself to keep my credibility by not posting any mp3s of these barely orginal, flaccid pop songs. But what the hell: here's Te Lo Agradezco Pero No (removed 06/03).

Alejandro Sanz & Shakira - Te Lo Agradezco Pero No mp3 video buy@iTunes buy@CD Universe

Show Videos...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reggaeton: Hector El Father

I've always loved Hector El Father for his deliciously over-the-top lyrics and tongue-in-cheek attitude (remeber his previous disc Los Rompediscotekas). To me, he was like "Yes, I let women scream "Hit me harder papi" on my records, but don't take it serious man, it's all just for laughs." Actually he was still making the same music as four years ago, before reggaeton got big (example: Gata Celosa - check the stupid costumes, almost a statement against the usual semi-nude video babes).

So I hope I wasn't the only one who was surprised to hear his new singles (off his latest album The Bad Boy). Rumor De Guerra is an agressive gangsta rap about revenge, way too serious for Hector. No room for jokes. And Sola is a cheesy ballad with lame beats.
What happened here? His ego got to him? The money got to him? Fact is, Hector's been busy doing deals with Jay-Z, designing his own clothing line, and insulting former collegues, so I guess there's no time for writing clever lyrics with double-entendres.

I still took time to listen to The Bad Boy, but it's just more of the same crap. War and ballads. The best song is "El Telefono", which was already on his previous CD (and on La Onda). A good second is "Maldades", where Hector at least made the lyrics a little funny again: "Maldades" is a very formal word, but here it's used to say he's gonna do "nasty stuff" to some girl (damn it's difficult to explain wordplay in another language! :)) But even this track is badly sung.

The future of reggaeton is not in gang wars, nor in romance, but in well written songs with a catchy beat and a positive message.

Hector El Father - Maldades mp3 buy@iTunes buy@CD Universe

Show Videos...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas Giveaway: Winners

Here are the lucky winners for our Christmas Giveaway contest.

  • Los Amigos Invisibles - Superpop Venezuela goes to Alison from Tacoma, Washington

  • Calle 13 - Calle 13 goes to Pieter from Belgium (if you read Dutch, be sure to bookmark his fabulous world music blog

  • Pitbull- El Mariel goes to Hape from Germany
Thanks for participating everybody!

Show Videos...