(This post is dedicated to my fellow Pelanguero contributor Franz Tunda who’s been MIA on here. Hopefully these selections will inspire him to return.)
Does this sound familiar? You find a used record at a thrift store/garage sale/flea market type of marketplace that you don’t recognize, but the cover art looks intriguing enough to take a chance on. You go home to play it for the first time and realize you forgot the most basic inspection of checking that the actual record matches the sleeve. The disappointment of it all then has you filing the record away as a lost purchase.
A couple years back this very thing happened to me. I had completely disregarded the mismatched sleeve and record as I didn’t recognize the group or even the label and never gave it a real listen through (mistake #2). A few months ago while doing some reorganizing of my collection I came across this wrong sleeve to record purchase again and pulled out the plain looking labeled record and decided to hear what was really on it. WHOA! I couldn’t believe I had unknowingly been sitting on such a quiet killer of record by Les Professionnels, a Haitian group who from what research I’ve been able to find only made this one album in 1974.
The first song, Les Fiances begins with an incedible acoustic guitar break that isn’t hard to imagine being sampled for Mob Deep or WuTang and carries on with a type of sophisticated cool that I can only imagine comes with lots of cigarettes, coffee and quiet conversations to your lover in French while playing a guitar.
This one is tailor made for a smokey cinema scene with long deep stares from a femme fatale with everything moving in slow motion. I just love how the whole song just creeps up on you as if it’s going in for the kill. I don’t mind dying if I can get killed with this much sophistication.
Have a seat, relax and let me pour you some sweet Gabonese Soukous. No need for Red Bull, put this one on and you’ll be flying with a steady groove all day long. I think you’ll love how this tune, La Vie by Mack Joss bubbles up non stop with some of the best feel good guitars and horns you’ll likely hear.
The flip side is my favorite on here, it’s about the never ending trials and tribulations of getting and losing digits. If one day when I’m fully grey and running a little Pelanga cafe-club-bar-joint, you can count on finding a jukebox in the corner with this 45 in it. Enjoy!
At our last Pelanga this past Saturday at La Peña we teamed up with Chicano Batman for an incredible night of music and dancing. We had a blast combining our sounds and crowds. Many thank you’s to all of you who came out!
At one point while I was deejaying I saw fellow pelanguero, DJ Papicultor give me his “oh hell yes!” look while dancing which lets me know I’m playing something special. It’s also a good indication I should be featuring it here at lapelanga.com. The song is called O.S.S. Merengueby Original Shleu-Shleu. OSS was one of the many offshoots from Les Shleu Shleu and also the most popular. Lead by maestro Tony Moïse on sax they would eventually evolve into
What I love most about this song is that it starts off in one great place, but then ends up in an entirely different place that is even better. First we get a hard hitting conga break that then flows into a classic sounding merengue, but then hold on because before you know it you’re off to San Francisco with Edouardo Richard playing a great Santana inspired guitar solo. And if that wasn’t enough they bring it all back to some Haitian rumba with sirens going off letting you know—this shit is on fire!
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.
I’m doing my best to hold myself to my promise of posting my favorite records — specifically classic Kompa records. And it doesn’t get much more classic than early D.P. Express. Here we have their 2nd LP from 1977, and it’s monster of a record. We got the boys on the cover chilling by at the grotto somewhere in the once regal neighborhood of Petion-Ville. My understanding is that D.P.E are most credited for being the first to bring synth sounds to Kompa music. On the surface to purists that could sound all bad (in the 80s synthesizers were notorious for taking the jobs from studio musicians). Instead they used the synthesizer as another sweet layer in addition to the incredible horns, guitars, percussion and vocals—like pouring caramel on ice cream. Have a listen to Vériteé for a great example of this.
Choosing the best songs off this record is no easy task. But there was no way I couldn’t feature this scorcher,Croix Pa’m. Again checkout how they flex these early synth sounds elevating the music even higher.
Now I saved what I consider the best for last. L’ Amiral is not the dance floor burner like the rest of the record, but this song resonates most with me. The rhythm is warm and steady, allowing the solos to just melt all over the place. Those guitars in the middle… like butter. Then towards the end when the chorus finally comes in… how do you not sing along with that?
One little hope I have in posting these Kompa records is that non-Caribbean folks who only know Haiti as a natural disaster zone, rife with poverty and political strife, begin to appreciate the immense wealth of music, art and culture that flourishes there and in its diaspora communities.