Nice one, Pozole! Since you’re taking it to Haiti, let’s keep it there for a bit.
This is another one of those long jams that just keeps getting tastier and tastier. You have no idea where they’re taking you, but you know it’s gonna be good. All kinds of goodness here, but my favorite is the riff at 2:45, which anyone with even the faintest exposure to (any Latin American country’s) “Amor Estéreo” in the 80s will probably recognize.
I had to look this up; maybe you all knew this, but I didn’t. I guess it all starts with a smoooooth early 70s Italian jam by Ciro “Zacar” Dammicco, “Soleado”.
I’m pretty fascinated by how different people hear the same song. Not to stereoytpe, but on YouTube, the Brazilian calls it “é balsamo para a alma e p o coração, bellísima”, the little Chicana says “I love this song I am going to dance it in my quinceañera” and homeboy says it “makes me feel like im in a funeral”.
For the American crooner it’s a Christmas song:
while Spaniard Manolo Otero makes it into a creepy, dramatic “love” song, the same one that both soothed and terrified this 10-year old, trying to learn about love from his mom’s radio:
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!
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.
One of my new years resolutions was to post more of my favorite records. I was reviewing my posts over the last 2 years and I was disappointed that I’ve only posted 1 kompa record (Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno). I have a decent collection of classic Haitian groups many of which I listen to on a daily basis. I’m now determined to post more of my favorites over the next few months.
To start off, I’d like to spotlight one the most beautiful kompas you’ll likely ever hear. Franz has previously featured Les Shleu Shleu‘s 1974 release Toujous Le Même 4-3, but I’d like to go back to their fourth album from 1969 Tête Chauve. I know, that cover is jarring, yet hard to look away. Tete Chauve means “Bald Head”, and the title song is Tete Chauve A New York so it makes sense, but maybe not. Anyway, the song I’d like to highlight here is Timidite. It’s an amazing piece of music that features Georges Loubert Chancy on sax. What comes out of his instrument is pure magic, specifically half way through the song where he enters in with a melody that somehow manages to simultaneously give you both joyful soothing tones and bitter remorseful ones at the same time. Combined with those reverb guitars and Kompa style chanting make a stunning piece of music. Enjoy!
Sometimes I think that Joe Arroyo’s crazy versatility is one reason why he was not even more famous outside of Colombia. He was a massive salsero, but he was so much more than that! Hardcore salseros often like their music a bit more predictable. You never know where El Joe is gonna take you, or how you’re supposed to dance there. (But that won’t stop you – who else can get a bunch of stiff bogotanos to dance mapalé?)
I was thinking about this, and I remembered the stories of the Festival del Caribe in Cartagena in the early 90s where Joe Arroyo got onstage, completely unrehearsed, to trade verses with Haiti’s Rara Machine, Zaire’s Loketo, and a group from Cuba (forget which) one after the other. We thought we were pretty original when we started La Pelanga 3 years ago, to bring all these musics to the same space. But this man beat us by about 15 years! Well, we can still try our best.
Here’s Sheila Degraff with Clifford Sylvain from Rara Machine. (Short attention span? Your patience will be rewarded.)
And Loketo! Superstars of “TGV soukous” (the branch of soukous named after the French high-speed rail system), huge Pelanga favorites, and the only band I know to feature a car-honking solo:
I love this track — it’s a looser and much longer version of Tabou Combo’s better known “Mabouyé”. You can imagine the crowds going bananas to this groove. Like a lot of great Haitian records from the 1970s, Soukoué Ko Ou was recorded in Brooklyn. Translated from Haitian creole, the title means “We’re in your care” or “We’re depending on you to care for us.”