Saturday, September 22, 2007

Movies: Bebe in Julio Medem's "Caótica Ana"

In the year 2000, Spanish director Julio Medem (Los amantes del círculo polar, Lucía y el sexo,...) lost his sister Ana Medem - a promising paintress - in a car accident. Now, seven years after his sister's death, Medem translated this traumatic loss into a new film: Caótica Ana ("Chaotic Ana"). This film is a tribute to his sister's art, her personality and the strength of women in general. Without a doubt, Medem's film is a beautiful and touching commemoration of his beloved sibling, but personally I think Medem could have treated this subject in a slightly more sober and less hysteric way: Ana is discovered to be the reincarnation of thousands of women of the past, all mistreated and killed by men. Medem desperately tries to bring up as many themes as possible and link them (violence in nature, American imperialism, capitalism, father and daughter relationships, lost love...), which actually distracts the film from its original purpose. It's not a bad film, but it lacks consistency and credibility.

The good thing about Caótica Ana is that one of our favorite Spanish artists is in it! Bebe (Nieves Rebolledo Vila) , born in Valencia, won the 2005 Latin Grammy Award for Best New Artist after her album Pafuera Telarañas came out in 2004. In Caótica Ana, she plays Linda, Ana's Andalusian-speaking friend in an artist home in Madrid. Bebe surprisingly enough is the most naturally playing actress: in a very convincing way, she makes you believe she's like this in real life. The other actors are sometimes very annoying: up to four characters are foreigners and have a terrible accent in Spanish, but at the same time speak Spanish perfectly, without even the slightest grammatical error! To me, this was just too unnatural and it even made me laugh at very inappropriate times. Anyway, if you have te chance to see this movie, I would still recommend you all to do so, because in spite of the somewhat artificial plot and the annoying actors; photography, editing and soundtrack are excellent! And uh... you get to see a lot of boobies! ;)

Caótica Ana was released in Spain on August 24, and will be presented at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals, before its release in the States on December 26.

Here's a trailer for the movie (in Spanish):

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pop: Melendi

I'm off on a 12-day trip through Eastern Europe, so you'll have to rely on El Guiri for the meantime :) At the moment he's allowing his white skin some much-needed sun in Sevilla, Spain, but he'll be back soon.

Melendi - Mientras No Cueste Trabajo - Calle La Pantomima - Espana Pop Flamenco Rock Latin Music
One artist he'll be hearing often is Melendi, currently #3 in the Spanish top 40. Ramón Melendi Espina has a nose for success: he manages to combine a singer-songwriter background, a streetwise image and a passion for flamenco music into a typically Spanish commercial pop/rock sound. He appears in videogames, commercials, and sold almost a million records, but when he sings about Oviedo street life in"Calle La Pantomima" you just have to believe he even sleeps outside. A melancholic song consisting of childhood memories, but in a way very uplifting and sunny.

Melendi - Calle La Pantomima mp3 buy@iTunes (Europe only) buy@Amazon

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

En La Misma Onda

A short news update!

Last wednesday, the nominees for the 2007 Latin Grammy awards were announced. Juan Luis Guerra came off best, with 5 nominations; Calle 13 and Ricky Martin each got four. I was especially surprised to see Gustavo Cerati's "La Excepción" nominated for Best Song. Heavy competition in the Best Urban category too, with Calle 13, Orishas, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar & Wisin y Yandel all going for the gold. And murdered ranchero Valentin Elizalde scooped a posthumous nomination. Here's the complete list, and here are some interesting comments by Latina Viva, bashing every artist I like in the list ;)

Two big shots in latino music recently released a new single: Gloria Estefan released "No Llores", a collaboration with Carlos Santana that sounds very much like all other Santana songs. And yesterday, Juanes premiered "Me Enamora", which sounds very much like all other Juanes songs. Of course you can listen for yourself, here and here!

A remarkable coincidence brings two albums to two Belgians at the same time. Except that Wouter over at Tropicalidad is a tad faster than me ;) Manu Chao's La Radiolina is found 'filled with energy and idealism', though Wouter feels like Manu pushed the recycle button a bit often. Piñata by the Mexican Institute of Sound is described as 'a catchy mix of old-fashioned cumbia, chachacha and danzón, woven with deep electro beats, lounge and hiphop'. Coming soon to La Onda ;)

And we conclude with two Brazilian bands in concert: Bonde do Role invites half the crowd on stage for a favela funk party, and Bebel Gilberto signs for an intimate and beautiful performance. Thanks to FabChannel, you can watch both concerts from A to Z below!

Bonde do Role:

Bebel Gilberto

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reggaeton/Hip Hop: Tego Calderon - El Abayarde Contra-Ataca

Tego Calderon - El Abayarde Contra Ataca - Tradicional A Lo Bravo - El Que Lucha No Avanza - Latin Rap Hip Hop Reggaeton Urban Music
Almost exactly one year ago, we praised Tego Calderón's previous album as the only good reggaeton album recorded up until then..

The Underdog is the new sound of the latin urban genre, a sound that blends Afro-Carribean influences with some of the hottest beats around. It's hip hop and reggaeton with soul and fuego.

It took Tego a label change, a big budget, and almost two and a half years to complete the album. So I was slightly surprised when I heard he would release his next CD merely one year later. Was his inspiration flowing so freely that he just didn't need the time? Or did the bosses over at Atlantic Records push Tego to quickly record another album, after The Underdog was met with disappointing sales, despite praising critics?

Fact is, the simultaneous release of El Abayarde Contra-Ataca and Tego's first feature film Illegal Tender smells like sly marketing. A quick quote about the movie, where Tego plays the bad guy (a Puerto Rican gangster):
A laughable low-budget mess about third-rate drug thugs, put together with the sheen and polish of a fourth-grade Christmas pageant. (E! Online)

Luckily, El Abayarde Contra-Ataca has become a better effort, though not exactly solid gold.

Both the title and the cover art are a clear reference to El Abayarde, the 2002 debut that launched Tego's career and internationalized reggaeton. And in many aspects, the music is also a return to those times, when Tego focused on underground reggaeton and gangsta-style hiphop. For example, "Lo Hecho Hecho Está" joins a hard core of Latin rappers (Voltio, Ñejo, Chyno Nyno) in a rough and very street anthem to Puerto Rican slums. "Los Mios" and "Quiereme Como Soy" carry inspirational rhymes with a positive message, like we're used to from Tego, but the hiphop finishing and the poor collaboration of Pirulo weaken the songs. If you're into pure rap, you probably won't bother, but I'm not very fond of these tracks.

Tego has always been one of the most innovative rappers, but on El Abayarde Contra-Ataca all experiments seem to fail pitifully. He branches out into r&b ("Quitarte 'To" featuring hype-of-the-moment Randy) and merengue ("No Era Por Ahí") without convincing. The latter might even be the most horrible song of 2007 - a mess of super fast merengue, pale raps and irritating noises. And the dark "Cual Es El Plan Y Eso" with Calle 13 and Yaviah could have been a spectacular combination, but the debilitating beat drowns the track in boredom.

So thank God (or rather, producer Luis Almonte) for reggaeton! "Tradicional A Lo Bravo" is a good choice for the first single, showing the fusion-style reggaeton we like. One minor point of criticism (valable for most tracks): vocal mixing could have been a lot better, there's too much echo and Tego sounds faint, while his voice is one of the most characterful in latin music.
"TTT Tego" is a catchy club banger worthy of his first big hit "Al Natural". The most exotic track is "Ni Fu Ni Fa", which joins funky breakbeats with Afro-Latin percussion and chanting children. And "El Que Lucha No Avanza" is top quality urban music: a positive attitude, original samples, and unstoppable lyrical flow.

Despite the obvious hasty finishing and the failures mentioned above, El Abayarde Contra-Ataca is a varied disc by the most talented latino rapper out there. Tego has an impressive voice, an incomparable flow, and a grand songwriting skill. Maybe the album is too much Abayarde and not enough Underdog? As Underdog, Tego surpassed the genre and created a whole new direction for himself. Let's hope he uses his talents to the fullest again for his next album.

Tego Calderón - El Que Lucha No Avanza mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon
Tego Calderón - Tradicional A Lo Bravo mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

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