So far we’ve hit 6 countries’ carnavals in 3 days! Now it’s time to really get our money’s worth as we venture out to those string of islands just north of Trinidad & Tobago, commonly known today as the Lesser Antilles, specifically Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique. Now this is usually the point where we would go on about origins or context regarding this Les Chanteurs des Isles du Vent record, but it’s carnaval—no time for getting nerdy. Trust me, if this song Edamise Oh! doesn’t give you the rush of carnaval running through your veins then I’m going to assume you are a card carrying tea party member, (fact: tea baggers hate carnaval).
Few things are more univesal than the revered tradition of people talking smack about each other over some beats. It’s pretty special when it’s two grandmas (and cousins) who have devoted their whole lives to it.
In the next few days, I am probably going to bombard you with music from the Carnaval de Barranquilla, which some Colombians claim is the second largest in the world, “despues de Rio de Janeiro, claro”. (Mind you, some Colombians also claim to have the second most beautiful national anthem, “despues de la Marsellesa, claro”.)
Roots first. Here is La Cumbia Soledeña a *classic* cumbia groups from Soledad, now a suburb of Barranquilla. How classic? This group started in 1877 and their sound, which (as you can hear) they keep as “pure” and “authentic” as possible, has been mostly passed down the family line.
Cumbia A Dos Flautas “Los Yolofos” by Cumbia Soledeña
I *love* their sound, but I’m not sure how I feel about the obsession with staying purebred – especially in such a hybrid music.
La Cumbia Moderna de Soledad, on the other hand, is not ashamed of their taste for the exotic. Their Fela Kuti cover Shacalao is pretty hot, but this is my favorite: the second best cover of Rod Stewart’s banger “Do you think I’m sexy“.
Time to hop over to Santo Domingo to experience carnaval with your host Fernandito Villalona. This video may be a bit staged (stopping for some tamarindo on his way to the concert), but have no doubt El Mayimbe was the king of the Dominican Republic in the 80s. Despite the early production quality, this old school music video does exactly what it’s supposed to—has us wishing we were there dancing in the streets with them. Enjoy! -Posoule
In my mind, the beauty of the San Francisco Carnaval is the opportunity to see how all these different people in the Bay Area get down: not just the Brazilians and the Trinis, but also the Salvadoreans, Filipinos, Mexicans, Panamanians, Chinese, Guatemalans, Belizeans, Hawaiians, Bolivians, drag queens, Asian sambaheads, modern-day urban pirates (?!?!)… and best of all, the little Mission kids, who are all of the above. It might not be the wildest of carnavals, but it’ll teach you something for sure.
So it was in the SF Carnaval that I first heard, and was floored by a local Nicaraguan group playing palo de mayo. Since then, most of the Nicaraguans I’ve asked about it discarded this as “musica de negros”. Which is always a good sign.
“Exodus” from 1962 is one of my favorite Ray Barretto tracks: so laid back, so eerie, and that repeated violin riff is just hypnotic. Perhaps it’s a little too contemplative to be the first song on an album called Carnaval, but it’s still a banger…