For many decades now Summer has been the season for music festivals. Long before Cochella and Bonaroo there was the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and Newport Jazz Festival in the US. Both started as showcasing exclusively Jazz music, but by 1970 Montreux began opening up to all styles of music while Newport has for the most part stuck to purely Jazz. 1n 1978 one legendary group from Cuba played at both festivals—Irakere. A ton has already been documented about them (here’s a great piece at Jazz Profiles) so I won’t go too deeply here. This was their release the following year that documented their international tour at these two festivals. After 35 years their fusion of afro-latin folkloric rhythms with jazz, rock and funk still hits hard as ever, not to mention the album art is still one of the best you’ll find.
Unfortunately, one thing we don’t see as much with festivals is the larger grand mission. At best the aim of any festival now is trying to showcase new musical talent. Nothing wrong with bringing new artists to the masses, however there was once a time when organizers were attempting to build international solidarity and peace with their festivals. You may be thinking I’m heading toward Woodstock, not quite. This live record Le Blé Et Le Mil by Toubabou lead me learning about Le Festival international de la jeunesse francophone, la Superfrancofête. (The International Festival of Francophile Youth, Super-French-Party) that was held in August of 1974. It’s goal was to build international solidarity with citizens of the many French speaking countries of the world. Over the course of 12 days the city featured many invited musicians, visual artists and even held sporting events. Superfrancofête was attended by more than 800,000 people in total and on the closing night the local Quebec band Toubabou teamed up with invited musicians from Senegal. Like Irakere, Toubabou were pushing the envelope of fusion by using traditional rhythms in more a modern context of electric instruments with layers of jazz and funk. They may never have attained the international acclaim of Irakere, but they were definitely onto something. Have a listen…
If you’ve listened to our promo mix you’ll know that the inspiration for La Pelanga was born at a summer music festival in Cali, Colombia. Hopefully we’ll all get to return to Festival Petronio Álverez again soon, but in the meantime let us know what other great music festivals are out there. Do you have a favorite?
Apologies to Franz if you had something ready to post, there’s just no way I can let Papicultor blast Mongo Santamaría’s Sofrito without following it up with Mongo’s 1969 release Stone Soul. For one, the cover is just as mouth watering. But then after watching Smokestack’s Forever We Rock B-Boy crewmate Whacko‘s insane footwork, I can’t resist dropping the needle on Mongo’s rendition of Cloud Nine. He actually played congas on the original version by The Temptations, so here you get to listen to Mongo along side legendary session musicians Bernard Purdie, Art Kaplan, and Hubert Laws as they completely let loose with an amazing blend of Funk and Afro-Cuban rumba. Without a doubt they created a certified B-Boy anthem. I haven’t break danced since I was 10, but every time I hear this song I get that itch to try it again.
As always, I’m looking forward to hear what my fellow pelanguero djs are going to throw on next.
So today, December 4, is el dia de Santa Barbara. For those in Cuba who believe in her and Chango (the Orishas deity) today is a day of great celebration and gives myself a wonderful reason to present the amazing Celina González Zamora and her husband Reutilio Domínguez, better known as Celina y Reutilio. Their music represents the Cuban countryside (guajiro) and Cuban gauracha. The first thing you will likely notice about their music is her voice. It’s at the forefront of their music and with good reason. The power, pride and conviction that comes across with every syllable she sings grabs a hold of you and commands total respect. Here is one their of their biggest hits, A Santa Barbara taken from their album from the same name.
I have to insist you watch this video of Celina y Reutilio performing A Santa Barbara from a Cuban movie called Rincon Criollo from the 1950s. The sound is extremely low so I recommend playing the audio track at the same time as this video. The reason being is because of the AMAZING dancing that accompanies the music in this scene. Take note this guy is wearing a machete at his waste the entire time AND even does the Michael Jackson toe stand!
For you salsa lovers you likely recognize this song as Celia Cruz had it hit with it, but my favorite salsa version is from the legendary Fruko who did an amazing melody of Celina y Reutilio’s A Santa Barbara, San Lozaro (sometimes refereed to as Babalu) and A La Caridad Del Cobre taken from his album Ayunando. Both these albums are reprinted on CD and I can’t recommend them enough. Enjoy!
The Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino made only two records–Concepts in Unity (1975) and Lo Dice Todo (1976) –but both are classics of the 1970’s New York salsa scene. The recordings came out of jam sessions held in Andy and Jerry Gonzalez’s basement in the Bronx (I’m imagining the Latin version of Minton’s Playhouse), and they have that spirit to them: open, loose, with a lot of space for supremely talented musicians to do their thing.
I found Lo dice todo a few months ago, and have been listening to it over and over ever since. It was hard to pick out a track to post, but I finally settled on the rumba version of the old bolero “Se me olvidó”. It’s the one I just can’t shake. The opening is so spare, so melancholy, and I love how Virgilio Martí’s voice just glides over, under, and around Alfredo de la Fe‘s violin. And then it just builds and builds.
Apparently, I’m not the only one obsessed with this song. It’s just one of those that gets under your skin, which is why so many artists have tried their hand at it. I did a quick search and found plenty of covers, some better, some worse: Manu Chao, Bebo y Cigala, Roberto Ledesma, or this mariachi version by Francisco Lara from a Mexican telenovela I hope never to see (tequila shots taken with a scowl only add to the atmspherics.)
Se Me Olvidó by Grupo Folklórico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino
Another banger from Lo dice todo is Au Meu Lugar Voltar, an intriguing mix of salsa and samba rhythms, composed by Brazilian trombonist Jose Rodriguez, and featuring Ubatan do Nascimento on vocals. Nice.
Au Meu Lugar Voltar by Grupo Folclórico Y Experimental Nueva Yorquino
FYI: Souljazz Records put out a collection called Nu Yorica! a few years back, featuring “Anabacoa”, a track from Concepts in Unity, and both of the Grupo’s albums are now available on CD. But the best news of all is that they’re performing again, so keep an eye out.
We’ve already told you that a lot of our favorite “Latin” music from the 70s and 80s was heavily influenced by the records arriving at that time from Africa, and particularly from the Congo. Maybe this is no surprise, given how much Cuban music shaped the Congolese rumba, which was some of the most popular music in Africa in the 50s and 60s. You’ve gotta love how these guys faked their way through the Spanish lyrics and, more importantly, took the classic son cubano to a new level. Here’s a lovely example, a cover of “En Guantanamo” by the tremendous guitarist Docteur Nico.
En Guantanamo – Docteur Nico
I feel like I’ve heard several versions of that song throughout the years, but I’d never thought to look up what it sounded like pre-1960. Our visit to Marcos Juarez’s great radio show on KALX prompted me to do a bit of research; clearly, Abelardo Barroso is who these guys were listening to:
What a voice!
Of course the love affair didn’t start or end there. It goes without saying that the early sones cubanos of the 20s and 30s could not have existed without the African influence in the island. And in 2008, here is Colombia’s La Makina del Caribe covering “Sai” by the Congolese soukous star Kanda Bongo Man.
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I bought this record in New York years ago; I can’t remember when really. The handwritten note on the side of this LP reads: “Con cariño para Rolando. Mi primer disco con Machito.” [With affection for Rolando. My first album with Machito]. It’s signed Virgilio and dated 4/12/63. 47 years ago today… (or 47 years ago on December 12…)