Space, the final frontier—well at least for gabachos. Chicanos and Chicanas have been traveling through the cosmos and putting down roots in the heavens for some time now. In fact some of the more notable explorers are based here in Oakland, California. Going back nearly 40 years, percussionists Pete and Coke Escovedo left Santana’s first band to form their own creation called Azteca. It was a bold project of creating a full 15-20 piece band on any given performance that fused latin rhythms, soul, funk, rock and could pretty much play anything. They made two incredible records that are a lasting testament to their innovation as multi-cultural musicians. In their 2nd record, Pyramid of the Moon, they take full flight as they lead the way through the stars for the rest of la raza to follow.
One of those to follow was my primo Lukumi. Fans of the group BRWN BFLO know him as Giant, aka Gigante. Back in 2010 he suited up for space travel with fellow BFLO, Somos One, for his mixtape Giant vs Doom where they document their travels in his song Xican@s in Space. (download it here for free)
Checkout his latest recordings where he mixes reality, imagination, humor and brown soul. He definitely follows the ethos that we believe in—music has no boundaries and you can use it to take you anywhere.
This past Sunday (11/3/13), a few of us Pelanga DJs attended a discussion here in Oakland, California hosted by Critical Resistance, called Dreaming Widly, Fighting to Win featuring professor-activist Angela Davis and poet-activist Martín Espada. The discussion was centered on the abolishment of the prison-industrial complex in the U.S. A radical idea for certain, but a very inspirational one. As I was listening to these two intelligent and creative voices throughout the evening I was mentally thumbing through my collection to find the perfect song to accompany their discussion. I came straight to this record…
In 1971 Eddie Palmieri formed formed the first ever, and by most accounts the greatest latin-funk group ever—Harlem River Drive. A band made up of all-star latin and soul-funk musicians, that featured the likes of: Cornell Dupree, Bernard Purdie, Charlie Palmieri, Andy Gonzalez and Jimmy Norman. This was at the exact same time when Angela Davis was locked up, in fact the FBI were even investigating Eddie’s group for their politically charged lyrics. One of which was penned by Eddie’s friend Calvin Clash who was locked up in Sing Sing and thus sparked this incredible 2 volume set of recordings live from inside Sing Sing Prison. Take a listen to Somebody’s Son. As Martín Espada explained on Sunday, music, poetry, and art can do far more to motivate, inspire and engage the masses than any speech or lecture. I’m not sure a better song exists that accomplishes this in regards to confronting the inhumanity of prisons. And it’s damn funky too!
You may have noticed the above record is actually Vol. 2. I can’t rightly look past Vol. 1, which is equally amazing.
One of the innovative things Eddie did when performing with Harlem River Drive was to open with separate latin and funk sets then come together for the finale. Lets checkout the opening set from Live at Sing Sing Vol 1, Pa La Ocho Tambo. I’m blown away every time I hear this recording. I honestly get the feeling that Eddie and his group are literally trying to set everyone inside free by knocking down the prison walls with their music. And it wasn’t just at Sing Sing. During this time Eddie was taking his music to many prisons, from Rikers Island to Puerto Rico to Colombia.
Currently 2.1 million US citizens are locked up, that’s 1 out of every 100 of us. For blacks it’s 1 out of 15 and for latinos 1 out of every 30. The bill we are paying to incarcerate our people is $21,00 per year. There has to be a better way. I for one plan to keep dreaming widly and support any movement to tear down our prisons and build something better.
La Pelanga is incredibly excited to team up with the blue tux-shirted crusaders Chicano Batman from Los Angeles in an intimate affair at La Peña on Saturday, September 29. La Pelanga’s passion for connecting rare sounds from Africa, Latin America, and the Carribean in order to celebrate our communities goes hand in hand with Chicano Batman’s liberating music of Chicano tropicalismo and East Bay’s institution for arts and culture, La Peña. Come be a part of this convergence of soulful musical expression and beautiful people this Saturday at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave, in Berkeley.
10 PM – 2 AM / Ten Bucks / All Ages (Click on poster above to RSVP)
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 really like where you’re headed with this, Pozole. While I cue up the next song, I have to say I can’t agree more with you, man. I have to walk behind the booth every other song to see what y’all are playing! And even in a record that I own, you guys bring to light these amazing songs that I haven’t even noticed. I hadn’t really paid too much attention to Ray Barreto’s ‘Power’, and on an album called ‘Power’! Thank you for rectifying.
That track got me all excited to post an old favorite, but I just realized that I let Smokestack borrow it. Well, it’s in very capable hands, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with it. So let’s try something else, inspired by your lasttwo posts (and by the opportunity to blast “Sofrito” on La Peña’s sound system last Saturday. Someone asked me what ‘Sofrito’, and the best (only?) answer was to have her look at the record cover.)
No doubt many of you know Mongo Santamaria’s “Sofrito”, a Pelanga favorite and a classy, classy tune. A just-so-slightly melodramatic piano intro turns into one of the most memorable tumbaos in salsa, adorned by such an elegant horn section and beautiful solos waay up top. Monguito’s subtle work on the congas keeps everyone grounded and lets them shine. Restraint can be so powerful!
This is not the song I meant to post, but I can’t help it.
What you might not know is how Monguito follows this up. In the next track he brings us back down low, with a praise to Shangó that is equal parts heavy funk and pure rumba cubana. What else can I say?
I can’t agree with Pozole more! Within Pelanga’s broad musical range you’ll definitely find several common themes: soulful rhythms meant to uplift your spirit and make your body move. Whether it’s a hyphy Papicultor cumbia remix or a choice kompa selection from Pozole, you’re guaranteed to learn something new with each record and party while you’re at it! Because we each have our own musical inluences we constantly inspire each other to dig a little deeper.
In fact, last month I wasn’t able to make it out and I hear Tunda played some James Brown and ESG. Who knows, maybe I’ll play a little Little Joe y La Familia at the next Pelanga! In the meantime check out Necessary Whackness – the full 50min afro-latin-funk-rock mix that features this monster latin-funk tune “Recognize Me”.
The mix, released just earlier this week, is a collaboration with my friend and Forever We Rock crewmate, B-boy Whacko. You might be wondering about his name? Well basically dude goes whacko when his jam drops! See what I mean (check the toprock battle clip below)?
This is probably one of my favorite latin-rock songs ever – some true message music! Little Joe’s production defines the DIY concept of the hard working independent Chicano musician – on down to the hand drawn cover (I’m guessing by a close friend or relative?). Of his ridiculously deep catalogue La Voz De Aztlan is one of Little Joe’s harder to find LPs. While “Recognize Me” is heavy funk fit for any breakin cipher, the rest of the album is made up of polkas, rancheras, and even a salsa track. Make no mistake, Little Joe plays it all…earning Grammies and playing/recording every style you can think of since the 60’s.
Here’s a message from Joe, from the back cover:
From the dusty hills of Tejas, to the smoggy barrios de Califas, to the steel mills of Gary and Pittsburgh, to the snow covered mountains of Denver, La Musica lives. La Musica is listened to, lived to, danced to, and low rided to …La musica Chicana comes from EL CORAZON Y LA ALMA. LA VOZ DE AZTLAN is a portrait of love, energy, and identity.
DJ Smokestack & B-Boy Whacko – Necessary Whackness