Have you heard that we’re starting a monthly Pelanga party in La Mision at the Brick & Mortar?
That’s right! We’re kicking things off Friday July 31st with West Coast-bred Boogaloo Assassins. These twelve latin soul brothers have steeped their rich Los Angeles roots with the often emulated sounds of New York’s Spanish Harlem to make Old Love Dies Hard (2013) – a six song EP on the Sicario/Fania labels, that’s guaranteed to bring your whole family to the dance floor. Old Love Dies Hard combines three of the group’s original recordings with covers of several perennial tracks, including a seamless, montuno-drenched version of Dawn Penn’s dancehall classic, You Don’t Love Me (No No No). Boogaloo Assassins — No No No
For the long time lover of latin soul, Boogaloo Assassins will take you on a walk through the familiar musical landscape of East Harlem in the 60’s and 70’s. Think of boogaloo, salsa, and soul classics on storied labels like Allegre, Fania, and Tico – but with a sunny infusion of laid back California swing. For the uninitiated, simply ask yourself the question – do you wanna dance? If the answer is yes, then we’ll see you at the show! Or if you’re on the fence about it, reconsider as Boogaloo Assassins reframe the question with their original composition and instant party starter – Do You Wanna Dance.
It’s been a minute since we last posted records here, ok a few months. But that hasn’t meant we’ve stopped collecting with the purpose of sharing. We are on a mission to spread as much amazing music from around the world as possible—soon we will be making our debut in iTunes so stay tuned for that.
Meanwhile I have an 7 inch EP record by Sorry Bamba. I’m just now learning about his musical legacy and have quickly taken to this Malian trumpeter. Bamba came up with his band Group Goumbé right as Mali won it’s independence from France (June 1960) and during a time when there was a big initiative by the new government to support musicians. Here’s a great article about Bamba from the UK Guardian from a few years ago.
This particular record is from his earlier years (1960s) on the Ivorian label Djima Records. In much of Central and West Africa, Cuban/Latin music was the rage during the 60s and as was often the case young musicians took it and blended it with their own traditions and available instruments, usually just electric guitars and horns. If you appreciate the rawness of simple recordings and the excitement of this era of African music I think you’ll really enjoy this.
First up on side A, Djelimango, a lovely Cuban Seis.
Here’s some more heat from my recent trip to Colombia.
As I told you a couple of years ago, I spent a few (pre-internet) years trying to figure out who played this incredible song, and several years after that trying to track down a copy of Joey Pastrana’s brilliant debut album. This wasn’t easy – I like to buy my records in person, and don’t like to pay a fortune for them – but I finally found it.
Man, I love the sound of this group. From the fat rhythm and horn sections, to Joey’s breaks on the timbales, to Ismael Miranda’s voice, to the groovy “Rivera sisters” – who aren’t really sisters, and are definitely not just ‘backup singers’ – I feel like I’m hearing Cortijo’s younger, crazier sibling. (And Cortijo is pretty crazy himself.)
It’s hard to choose a song or two from this album. Every song is gold! Anyway, here’s a soulful boogaloo:
Joey tells the story of how Cotique’s George Goldner sent him straight to the recording studio after hearing his band play just one song. Dude was so excited with what he heard, that he rushed to get the album out as quickly as possible. It seems that he didn’t even have time to check the spelling of ‘Pastrana’ on the cover…
Another guest Pelanguero gets in the mix: this time it’s novelist Adam Mansbach, aka Kodiak Brinks, author of The End of the Jews, winner of the California Book Award, and the bestselling Angry Black White Boy, one of the funniest, smartest, and most devastating satires about hip-hop and race in America you’ll ever read. In 2011, he will publish a children’s book called Go the Fuck to Sleep, (dedicated, I assume, to my goddaughter V) and a graphic novel, Nature of the Beast. He is the New Voices Professor of Fiction at Rutgers University, and his record game has been described as “bananas.” Take it away, Brinks:
You can always tell, at a record store, who’s a hip-hopper: a DJ, a producer, even a collector – if the record store has a listening station, anyway. Not by the stack of records he’s listening to: hip-hop is built on the notion of intellectual democracy through collage, so the wax he’s auditioning will have been pulled from every section of the store. You can tell by the way he moves the tone-arm, the way he “flips through” the record.
He’s “looking for drums.” By which he means drum breaks: those stripped-down rhythmic lacunaes in the music that b-boys at park jams in the Bronx saved their best moves for and DJs learned to extend, for the b-boys’ pleasure, by rocking double copies.
First, the hip-hopper will listen to the opening bars of the song. This is where many breaks are located. If the song rewards him, his brow will furrow and his head will begin to bob. He may even pass the headphones to a friend and say “yo, check this shit out,” giddy with the excitement of a new discovery.
If there is an intro break, the hip-hopper will listen until other instruments come in, then drop the needle two-thirds of the way into the song, hoping the break comes back, longer and more robust, during the bridge. If the song is a ballad, or garbage, the needle will come back up before the first bar is over: on to the next jam. If the tune is promising but nebulous – a spacey jazz joint, say, one that seems like it might resolve into a groove somewhere down the line – he’ll drop the needle every sixteenth of an inch. Watching all this, you might wonder how the hell anybody can decide whether to buy a record by listening to ten one-second portions of it.
I always stress to my graduate students, in that crucible we call a fiction workshop, the importance of meeting a story on its own terms. I tell them that to be good readers, and helpful classmates, they’ve got to seek to understand what the writer is trying to do, and figure out how to help her get there.
And as I stand at the listening station, flipping through rock and blues and salsa records, it often occurs to me that perhaps I’m doing the opposite. I’m judging the music – or at least, it’s suitability to join my rarefied collection – based on criteria that may have nothing to do with the artist’s intentions. Certainly, some of hip-hop’s most celebrated breaks, if you play them in context, seem incidental, if not anomalous, to the songs in which they’re housed:
This question of “terms” is never more striking to me that when I’m checking out Latin records. I guess because it seems so wrong, somehow, to judge them based on a hip-hop-centric conception of funkiness. “Boogaloo” (itself an Americanization of “bugalú”) is the style that a) is most likely to give me what I’m looking for, and b) was widely seen, when these records were coming out in the late sixties and early seventies, as a sellout move, a compromise; the Ray Barretto records hip-hoppers hunt for are not the ones salsa fans seek out. So… I’m actively pursuing the tourist crap? That can’t be good, right?
Meanwhile, everything on Fania from 1973 is great, and all of it is funky – just not in a 4/4, b-boys-hit-the-floor kind of way. And, of course, I’ve ended up buying plenty of those records, and I consider myself a salsa fan now, and I’m learning to appreciate the music on its own terms. The same way chasing down hip-hop samples granted me entrée to jazz, blues, and rock, only to make me a fan in ways that transcended the breakbeat mission.
And yet, every time I throw a Latin record on that listening station turntable, I’m hoping for the kind of drum break that would have made Afrika Bambaataa wet his pants. Which is why this 1974 Perez Prado LP is one of the dopest albums I’ve come across in months. I don’t know what was on his mind when he made it – was this a nod to commercial concerns, an attempt at fusion or crossover? Or was he just one of the funkiest motherfuckers in the world, a musical pioneer who didn’t mind laying down his crown as “El Rey del Mambo” in favor of pioneering the Latin-rock fusion known as “Patricia,” then moving on to what Now’s liner notes describe as “an equation combining rhythm and pleasure to arrive at free expression” and term “Escandolo”? (A name that might also describe the style’s reception among Prado’s longtime fans).
It’s hard to pick one track here; “Tommy,” “El Campesino,” “Que Es Lo Que Pasa,” “Escandolo #1,” “Smack,” “Cangrejo,” and, yes, even “Tequila” are straight bangers.
Sadly, and perhaps revealingly, only “Tequila” is available on Youtube:
So one day my grandfather arrived home from work to find that my grandmother had thrown away his whole record collection – just put it in boxes and left it outside for anyone to pick up. The kids’ records too. I love her to pieces, but I do dream of buying these treasures back from the lucky person that happened to walk by.
Decades later, I found this great little 45′ in a flea market. (In a puddle, you can hear that…) I like this song a lot, but the real beauty was getting home and finding my aunt’s signature on the record.
Rosa by Charanga 76
Now my uncle Gerardo, the self-proclaimed “Rey del Bugalú”, owned every record by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. The other day he saw I picked up Jala, Jala Boogaloo Vol. 2 and pointed me to this hot track I’d never heard before.
Iqui Con Iqui by Richie Ray Y Bobby Cruz
Iqui Con Iqui
And my mom? So much of what I know I learned from her… I’ve gotta give her her own post later.
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