Thursday, June 26, 2008


(That's Spanish for 'Annoucements'. Or 'Commercials' :))

Due to unforseen circumstances we won't be able to assist the Couleur Café festival in Brussels. We were dying to see Cuban salsa stars Los Van Van live, and the concerts of Belgian band Arsenal and zouk orchestra Kassav' were two great bonuses. But for maximum festival coverage I direct you to the always excellent Dutch-language world music blog Tropicalidad.

Chapín is off to the USA for a month of road trippin' next week. But thanks to Blogger's nifty new auto-post system you won't fall without music this time. Also, El Guïri will shine his light on two great album releases - so keep following La Onda during the summer holidays!

PS: Still no Arcangel album here, and I'm leaving tomorrow, so I'm afraid the review won't be ready until August.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

En La Misma Onda

The succesful reggaeton duo Jowell y Randy is working on solo albums, though they will 'keep working together in the future'. Randy's album is almost finished and will be called Romances De Nota - ewwwww. I guess that's bye-bye to party tunes like "No Te Veo"... (via BlogReggaeton)

Club Fonograma shine their light on the upcoming Latin Grammys. A mammoth task, considering the amount of categories and subdivisions at the Grammys. Here's what they've reviewed so far: Tropical (what a bummer that there's no Merengue category this year), Regional Mexican and Flamenco & Latin Jazz

And to prove that there's still loads of quality merengue out there, even without a Grammy category, CorrienteLatina has an excellent merengue mixtape with tracks of Dominican bands Oro Sólido, Coco Band, Josie Esteban and La Mákina.

Masala has an excellent half hour of cumbia nueva in this week's podcast. They also have all the info on the brand new Bersa Discos v2 vinyl. The San Francisco-based label's second EP has some great rebajadas from DJ Negro (listen on their myspace).

More hipster cumbia - here's a mixtape from El Hijo De La Cumbia. It's become a very eclectic mix with some dub and drum&bass, lots of rebajadas and creepy bleeps & blips. Interesting to say the least! (via Fat Planet)

SoundRoots reviews Sonidos Gold, the latest installment of Austin 'latin funk orchestra' Grupo Fantasma. They call it 'tracks that go great with summertime and sweat', and I have nothing to add to that!

Neil says this week's Ritmo Latino podcast is 'the best episode of 2008'. With tracks from Café Tacuba, Babasonicos Zoe and La Casa Azul you can't prove him wrong!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Reggaeton: Arcangel, Nejo y Dalmata

Something's bubbling in the reggaeton scene. The big names like Don Omar and Daddy Yankee are preparing new CDs, supposedly taking latin urban music to a whole new level (yet again). But the real new evolution is that those big names, instead of being the first to popularize a new sound, seem to fall behind on the surge of new talent releasing killer tracks at an unstoppable rate. A softer beat, 120 bpm club/tech pace, ravey synths - you can hardly call it a traditional dembow, but it's the sound of a new front of reggaeton artists. It's hard to see where the trend started (though Casa de Leones' superhit "No Te Veo" last year was certainly responsible for some big exposure) but wayne&wax links it to the early sound of DJ Blass - and to Lil' Jon digging up the rave in hiphop/crunk.

Some of the names that stand out in the constant flow of new releases are Jowell y Randy (also involved in the above-mentioned Casa de Leones), Ñejo y Dálmata (remember Dálmata from the gimmicky "Pasarela") and the very promising young talent Arcangel (who used to be a duo with De La Ghetto).

I had heard of Arcángel before, but it was the rave review of his album La Maravilla on Club Fonograma that really drew my attention to this Dominican phenomenon. La Maravilla was never officialy released though - when the album leaked weeks before its release date, Arcángel decided to distribute it for free on the web. Next week we'll have a full review of the 'official' debut Libre Albedrío (Free Will), produced by superstar duo Luny Tunes (it's been a while since we heard something good of them!). "Pa Que La Pases Bien" is a great example of what to expect - a catchy beat, a ceaseless lyrical flow and a voice as sweet as honey.

Arcángel - Pa' Que La Pases Bien mp3 myspace

"Algo Musical" is somewhat of a surprise hit - Ñejo's sluggish rapping is hardly an asset on the radio. But is it a coincidence that exactly Arcángel is collaborating on this track off 2007's Broke and Famous? The elektro sounds and the synth beat is even more prominent here. That "pa'lante y pa'tra" tempo change is super catchy too.

Ñejo y Dálmata ft. Arcángel - Algo Musical mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

And the big names? A leaked Don Omar track ("Bom Bom") doesn't show any remarkable improvement over 2006's King of Kings. However, "Pose" off Daddy Yankee's forthcoming Talento de Barrio OST (accompanying the 'biopic' of the same name) shows he is trying to stay with the trend, although last year's El Cartel III album exposed Yankee as an artist hovering between new trends on one side, and gangsta rappin' for the old fans on the other side. Let's see what the future brings!

Arcángel - Pa' Que La Pases Bien

Ñejo y Dálmata ft. Arcángel - Algo Musical

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Salsa: Willy Chirino

Willy Chirino Salsa Cuba Tropical Pop Palante Pa Lante Latin Music
Even after all those years of listening to, searching for and blogging about latin music, the genre still has many suprises for me. I was astounded to find out that Willy Chirino, author of the fresh and bubbly salsa "Pa'Lante", is credited as one of the creators of the "Miami sound" that characterized the salsa sound of the first Cuban exiles (after the revolution in '60).

But "Pa'Lante" for some reason emanates the feelgood vibe that's so characteristic for vallenato. It might be the playful accordeon, or the positive message ("Live your dreams!") and the enthousiasm in Chirino's voice. The combination with acoustic guitars and a Polo Montañez-like violin is, on the other hand, typically Cuban. It all combines in a catchy and original pop song that definitely deserves your attention. With a discography of 28 albums and hundreds of songs, there's still much to discover about Willy Chirino...

Willy Chirino - Pa'lante mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon myspace

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Thanks for participating in our Sergio Mendes contest everyone. Here are the winners:

  • The lithograph signed by Sergio himself goes to Sare from Utah

  • The 'Brasil 66' soccer t-shirt goes to Amy from Texas

  • And the advance Encanto CD goes to Zjef from Belgium!
If you haven't won, no worries because today Encanto is in stores ;)

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

3 years La Onda! Contest! CD Giveaway!

Thanks to very big exams in the very near future, I won't be able to celebrate the third anniversary of La Onda Tropical the way it should. No big themed post this year, I'm very sorry. Thanks for sending in your remixes though, maybe later they'll get the spot they deserve right here on the site.

However, I can't let the big 3 pass without a contest! Thanks to Giant Step I have three great Sergio Mendes prizes to give away:

  • A lithograph signed by Sergio himself

  • An exclusive soccer shirt with the number 66 and 'Brasil' on the back

  • An advance copy of Sergio's latest CD Encanto, out June 10th (and reviewed below!)
If that won't make up for the prematurely cancelled Eddie Palmieri contest last month... :)

You probably know the drill - just send your name and mailing address to to be eligible, and be sure to mention 'happy birthday' somewhere in the mail. Be quick, because the contest only lasts until June 10th (next tuesday)!

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Pop: Sergio Mendes - Encanto

Sergio Mendes Encanto Look of Love Funky Bahia Catavento Odo Ya Carlinhos Brown Latin Jazz Bossa Nova Brazil Music
Sergio Mendes was responsible for popularizing the bossa nova movement in the US back in the sixties, playing countless concerts with American jazz legends (Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Mann) and his own band Brasil '66. His cover of Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada" is common property: the older folks remember the bossa version off Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, the younger generation knows it thanks to Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas. He produced Sergio's Grammy-winning comeback album Timeless two years ago, and was behind the controls again for the follow-up Encanto, out June 10th.

To be honest I was very sceptic about reviewing Encanto, I expected it to be much like Timeless which I found too focused on the hiphop crossover market, lacking the latin soul I search for. The fact that the album is distributed through Starbucks even added to the smell of commercialism.
But Sergio proved me wrong. The music is as sunny, colorful and sexy as the album cover (below). Encanto is a carefully selected collection of covers that got the Mendes treatment - jazzify, synthify, add suitable guest vocal. The result is an album overflowing with simple, happy, richly arranged tunes that will enlight your summer.

One of those legendary covers is "The Look of Love" by Burt Bacharach. Here is the original hit from 1967. Revamped with Fergie on the vocals, the song is stripped from its cheesy soundtrack strings, given a contemporary beat and a different chorus. The result is a completely different song, minimalistic and charming, blending in wonderfully with the rest of the album. Too bad Fergie is so prominent on the song - her voice leaves me completely indifferent.

But let's focus on the latino elements here - you'll hear the other songs more than enough I imagine. "Y Vamos Ya" forced me to lift the Juanes ban that reigns at Casa Chapín since the release of La Vida Es... Un Ratico. But after one listen that ban was back in force - Juanes totally ignores the whole point of the album by engaging in sentimalist whining ("Pajaritos van cantando a tu lado"... please!).

The other latino flavored collaborations are more worth while. "Lugar Comum" switches between Jovanotti's Italian raps and a soulful chorus of Brazilian girls. "Morning in Rio" and "Odo-Ya" (with the immensely popular Carlinhos Brown) make me feel like joining a carnival parade in the streets of Rio. "Catavento" (with his wife Gracinha Leporace on the vocals) is great for chilling out. If you don't mind the constant cuica sound (a.k.a. the "laughing gourd") that is. "Acode" (with Vanessa Da Mata doubts between gently samba drums and a pulsating dance beat. Also a great example of the guitar-piano interaction you'll often hear on the album. The album ends with "Agua De Beber", with Will.I.Am excelling in empty lyrics and Sergio making it all up with his inventive piano and synth arrangements - I always love it when jazz singers ad lib to the melody.

So Encanto has its heights and lows for the latin music lover, but it's certainly worth checking out as a whole, thanks to the sunny sound and Brazilian feeling of the album.

Sergio Mendes ft. Carlinhos Brown - Odo-Ya mp3
Sergio Mendes ft. Gracinha Leporace - Catavento mp3
Album: Encanto (Concord)
buy@Amazon myspace

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hip Hop: ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

Choc Quib Town Somos Pacifico Colombia Alternative Hip Hop Latin Music
I first heard of ChocQuibTown through Masala - always first concerning extraordinary worldly beats. The video for "San Antonio" (below) was a great introduction to the habitat of this Colombian hiphop outfit, showing multiracial fun in the streets of San Antonio, a neighborhood in the city of Cali. Contrasting with the very low budget video is the crystal clear sound of the band, with lead singer Gloria 'Goyo' Perea's sultry voice as the cherry on the cake.

ChocQuibTown's debut album Somos Pacifico was produced by the innovative duo Ivan Benavidez (Carlos Vives) and Richard Blair (Sidestepper) - and it has become a jewel. It's latin hiphop exactly how I like it, incorporating the funky sound of the Colombian pacific to create a pure and refreshing sound. The concept is similar to what Orishas does with Cuban folklore or what Andy Palacio did for Garifuna culture: an ode to their home and roots made for a global audience.

The album is very diverse in rhythms, giranting between urban beats (soft dancehall in "No Le Copio"), latin tropicalia (salsa in "Pescao Envenenao", rumba in "Somos Pacifico") and Afro-Colombian traditionals even I never heard of (bambazú, anybody?). The comparison with Tego Calderón's The Underdog is never far away, though ChocQuibTown stays on the less-commercial side of latin urban music, using subtle hiphop grooves rather than deafening reggaeton beats. Most of all ChocQuibTown is funky, sometimes even jazzy (Goyo often made me think of Cuban jazz poet Telmary) like on "Busco Personas".

Top tracks are the aforementioned "San Antionio" and "Pescao Envenenao" featuring Colombia's hottest salsa crew, La 33. The latter is also a great example of the activism and social awareness in Choc Quib Town's lyrics, warning their people about politicans spreading hate and fear. Title track "Somos Pacifico" is heavy on samples and scratching but like no other breathes the exotic atmosphere that characterizes the album.

Somos Pacífico
Estamos unidos
Se une la región
La pinta, la raza
y el don del sabor

Some less convincing tracks are inevitably present on every hiphop album (here it's "Alguien Como Tu" and "Lo Nuevo") but Somos Pacifico is definitely worth your attention if you're up for a pleasant discovery!

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico mp3
ChocQuibTown ft. La 33 - Pescao Envenenao mp3
Album: Somos Pacifico (Rue Bleue/Polan)
buy@iTunes buy@Amazon myspace

San Antonio

Somos Pacifico

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