Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back on Track

Recovering from a well-filled festival weekend and a month of internet-free travels, here's a round-up of what other blogs wrote while we were gone.

I think we can speak of a veritable nueva cumbia explosion by now. Two more sources to get your mashup fix. First, Cabeza! is a new 'netlabel' mixing urban goodness with the all-familiar cumbia. negromoreno's mix has lots of elektro samples and is sure to do good on Western dancefloors. Second, Altos Colombianos is some kind of cumbia mashup community (if you're lost, the remix page is here ;)). Masala recommends DJ Toty.
And meanwhile the guys from Zizek haven't been quiet either. They did a second US tour (too bad I wasn't able to check them out), of course with accompanying free promo EP. Also check out this great podcast mix for XLR8 by Zizek DJ Villa Diamante.

Bubblegum pop combo RBD, a.k.a. the ultimate nightmare of everyone with a teenage latina in their surroundings, has finally split up. The Latin Americanist has all the details. To illustrate how much the band meant to many kids out there, read this post over at Latin Gossip...

Plastic Caramelo define themselves as "glampeta" - champeta + dancehall + cumbia. I think they make noise - but that's exactly what I first thought about CSS, MIA and Bonde do Role who could be considered similar artists. Check out the video for "Plastic Caramelo" over at Fat Planet.

Swedish Classical Tango. The name might sound like "steak-flavored ice cream", the music is something very special. Beata Söderbergh is a cellist who discovered tango in a New York club - and decided to dedicate herself to the music. The album Bailata is the unique result. More (including an mp3 sample) over at SoundRoots.

After the series on their selection for the Latin Grammy's, Club Fonograma list their favorite songs of 2008 so far in another elaborate post sequence. Here are the links to parts one, two and three.

One of our more recent discoveries in the world music blogosphere, Stuart Buchanan's Fat Planet, decided to stop writing and focus on the music (in his Slang Tang podcasts). His final post is a great piece of writing on the issues many music bloggers share - I for one recognize myself fully in the things he writes. But no worries - I'm not thinking about stopping just yet. Just maybe things will slow down a little around here, as I'll take more time for other things in life. Then again, maybe not ;)

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Festival Report: Antilliaanse Feesten Day 2

Saturday, August 9th
Antilliaanse Feesten Hoogstraten Belgium Caribbean Music Festival Latin Salsa Soukous Merengue Reggaeton Saturday Concert Festival Report review
Click above for more pictures. Some are courtesy of, you'll recognize them by their sharpness and beautiful composition ;). Dutch version of this article here.

All ready for a second night of caribbean fiesta, I could handle the few raindrops and the dark sky. The queue at the entrance was something else however - the crowd was overwhelming, even on the festival grounds. So I had to skip Amarfis y la Banda de Attake (merengue from the Dominican Republic and frequently featured on this blog), a bummer. Yet another cancellation - Puchy y su Coco Band mysteriously disappeared after they took a bus in Madrid - was the final blow for the festival line-up: on the main stage every band was either a replacement, cancelled or not my taste.

So the night started off in disappointment, but as soon as Gente D'Zona came on stage, it was replaced by awe and joy. The Cuban reggaeton duo only has a small repertoire of mostly similar songs to rely on, but the more exotic and less agressive cubaton had a strong appeal on the salsa-loving audience. A fanatic horde of Cuban girls was lining the front rows and singing along to every word - if you haven't guessed, Gente D'Zona is immensely popular in Cuba. The rest of the tent enjoyed the view of all the youngsters climbing the stage to show off their moves and their bodies - musically there wasn't much to experience anyway.

Afterwards my company and me were listening with a half ear to the sugarsweet bachata pop of Monchy y Alexandra (website) while sipping a cocktail and enjoying the atmosphere. It was raining a little, but nobody seemed to bother: the crowd of 30,000 people from all over the world was here for dancing, singing along, drinking, having fun. The Antilliaanse Feesten are definitely a very laid back festival with an almost tangible positive vibe (if you go next year, be sure to stay camping to be fully immersed!).

Then came the second chance for Son de Cali (myspace). Word of mouth about yesterdays performance filled the Joker tent to capacity - no room for salsa dancing this time, but the Colombian band was in much better shape now they got to know the audience. A phenomenal drummer and percussionist gave the salsa a thriving rhythm not found on their albums - while speedy piano work and great singing improvs fired up the audience.

Headliners Wisin y Yandel had to cancel at the last minute (see previous post), but I was pleased to see Angel y Khriz (website) replace them - I like their softer, more exotic Dominican reggaeton better than Wisin y Yandel's fairly unoriginal bling-bling. But alas the show was a complete disappointment: no live instruments, both rappers just shouting over a bassline (mostly off key as well), and uninspired versions of their hit songs "Ven Bailalo" and "De Lao A Lao". The audience seemed to have fun at least - though many came for Wisin y Yandel and expected a bigger show.

Off to the Joker stage for an unexpected discovery. Djunny Claude is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as such no material for this latino blog ;) But in the wee hours of the Hoogstraten night, he managed to get our tired legs to jump and dance for more than an hour to his contageous soukous music. The show was crazy, disorganized but wonderfully charming - at one moment the whole band dropped on the floor, after which for some reason Djunny started a dancing contest between the Congolese dancers on stage. Probably to show us white people ways of moving our body that we will never grasp. One to watch if you're into world music!

The honors for closing off two days of passionate, border-crossing music were for Carimi (myspace) from Haiti. It was their third time in Hoogstraten, and in this period they seemed to have picked up a lot from US culture. Which might be good for the show, but I came for the lovely, fast-paced compas music from their homeland, not for r&b and hiphop. After a while they did seem to find the right balance, but while they were building an explosive party on the main stage, I was already heading back through the mud to my tent.

This edition of the Antiliaanse Feesten suffered quite a lot from the many cancellations, though many replacements did a very good job. Altogether we had a wonderful weekend of exotic music, and we'll certainly be back in 2009!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Festival Report: Antilliaanse Feesten Day 1

Friday, August 8th
Antilliaanse Feesten Photos Fotos Pictures Report Review Verslag Concert 2008
Click above for more pictures. Some pictures courtesy of (usually the sharp ones ;)). Dutch version here.

A beautiful sunset over the Blue Forest in Hoogstraten (on the border between Belgium and Holland) marked the beginning of an exotic night with lots of surprises. The knee-deep mud and the amount of cancellations couldn't ruin the atmosphere at the Antilliaanse Feesten, the biggest Caribbean music festival in Europe: the multicultural crowd was ready to party all night long with dozens of musicians from all over Latin America and the Caribbean.

And the start couldn't be better than with Rocola Bacalao (myspace), an energetic ska band from Ecuador. The nine members jumped around frantically while putting their heart and soul in their trumpets and guitars - which worked very contageous on the crowd at the Cahier Club stage. Their best songs mixed cumbia (and even merengue) with clever lyrics and an incredibly positive attitude - they just wanna have fun. Only when the guitars were cranked up, things got a little too loud and hyperactive for me.

Over at the main stage, Dominican merengue star Chichi Peralta kept us waiting for a while with a strange and totally unsuitable apocalyptic video - not the kind of intro you want for a sexy session of merengue. Chichi himself was hardly behind his percussion set, entertaining the audience while two not very talented youngsters took care of most of the singing. The usually exhilarating merengue was brought routinely, and though Chichi played the crowd quite well he didn't seem to have a lot of fun - maybe he's tired of performing? The multiple power failures didn't help either. Still, the latina girls jumping on stage to show off their dance moves were nice to watch ;)

Meanwhile, Manolito y su Trabuco (myspace) were setting the Joker stage on fire with their Cuban salsa and timba. It always strikes me how Cuban artists seem to have music and rhtyhm in their blood - with great professionalism Manolito and his band spun 15-minute long versions of their timba hits, playing the crowds with accelerations and improvisations. Lots of room for dancing, so all you could do was get carried away. Manolito ended the concert with a whirling "Loco por mi Habana", smiling from behind his piano.

Soca music might not be a focus of this blog, I had to see Machel Montano (website). The self-proclaimed king of soca (and honored with multiple awards at Trinidad & Tobago carnival over the years) has an excellent live reputation, and indeed the show was 2 straight hours of jumping and dancing. Realizing the simplicity of soca music can't carry a show on it's own, and being the pure entertainer he is, Machel brought some variation with r&b and dancehall bits mixed between his own songs. And the audience digged it: 10,000 people jumping and whirling around flags is an impressive sight!

I ended the first night with Son de Cali (myspace) from Colombia, who replaced their compatriotas Grupo Gale. They were visibly tired when they got on stage - and to be honest, starting a concert at 3:45 AM is unearthly late (thanks to accumulated delays - or let's just say, latino spirit). They deserved a second chance - saturday on the Joker stage, and I'll tell you more about that in a few days!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Festival Preview: Wisin y Yandel

Important update below!

We're mentally preparing ourselves for the Antilliaanse Feesten this weekend in Hoogstraten (on the border between Belgium and Holland). It's the biggest caribbean music festival in the world, and practically our only chance to catch a live performance of the artists we blog about. Both El Guiri and me will be covering the festival, and world music fanatic Pieter from Tropicalidad will be there as well, shooting his signature classy concert pictures.

As usual a few last minute cancellations changed the program a little - but in my opinion, the replacements could have been headliners themselves. Cuban timbero Manolito y su Trabuco replaces the charanga outfit he used to be part of - Maravilla de Florida. And while la Maravilla is a true Cuban monument, Manolito has grown even bigger during the last few years - the island is just crazy about timba.
Also, Grupo Gale, currently the #1 salsa band on almost every Colombian radio station, had to cancel their whole European tour, and will be replaced by the equally magnificent Son de Cali.
Other artist we're looking forward to seeing live on Belgian soil: Dominican merenguero Chichi Peralta (who used to be part of Juan Luis Guerra's band), soca king Machel Montano (a genre we rarely blog about but secretly enjoy), the unknown but apparently captivating salsa combo Magia Caribeña (we might do an article on them soon), and the Ecuadorian rock band Rocola Bacalao.

Wisin y Yandel in Belgium
But the biggest stars of the festival are undeniably Wisin & Yandel. The Puerto Rican duo was part of the beginnings of reggaeton - we're talking 1995, unnamed tracks on compilations, and CDs burned in some sleazy home studio. Success slowly built up, and W&Y exploded into mainstream with "Rakata" off 2005's Pa'l Mundo, thanks to superproducers Luny Tunes. Now Wisin y Yandel have their own record label and sold a couple of million albums (all of this in the internet age!). Their latest effort Los Extraterrestres may not be excelling in originality, somehow Wisin y Yandel manage to lock every single they've released in the last few years in the top spots of sales & radio charts. We'll see this saturday if the success is deserved!
For now, here's the latest single "Ahora Es". Yes, the chorus says "dale sin miedo" AND "hasta que se rompe el suelo" - the two biggest clichés in reggaeton lyrics. Yes, the video has loud engines and dancing females. Yes, the song is probably as annoying as "Gasolina". But I dare you to listen to it - we'll talk in a week, when you might finally got that beat out of your head ;)

Wisin y Yandel - Ahora Es mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon myspace

!!! UPDATE !!!
The Bad News: Wisin & Yandel cancelled their whole European tour (Milan, Rome, London, and the Antilliaanse Feesten festival) due to the serious illness of Wisin's mother. We wish them peace and love going through these tough times, and hope for the best for Wisin's mother.
Another last minute cancellation is the venezuelan salsa combo Magia Caribeña. They can't make it due to 'third person incompetence' - read: red tape.
There's only one suitable comment here: FUCK! The festival usually gets some cancellations (mostly due to visa problems) but if you look at the line-up now, it's completely different than a month ago.
The Good News: The festival organisation has managed all the cancellations very well in my opinion. Khriz y Angel will replace Wisin y Yandel - they may not be as famous, but honestly I like their music better. Plus, considering the cancellation happened minutes before W&Y got on the plane, it's a small miracle they found a similar artist so fast. The same with Amarfis y la Banda de Attake very last minute but a welcome addition!

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