Arjuna and Jacobo host the 3rd episode of Pelanga en La Sala with special guest Adam Dunbar from Discos Alma. (note: episode #2 tragically perished with a faulty hard drive) Join the three as they explore the vibrant and often overlooked music of Panama with a few other Caribbean gems mixed in.
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.
Please excuse our recent absence from this space. We’ve been doing some remodeling and maintenance, but we’re back now! We’re still very excited to continue sharing more music and culture. In fact, last week we got together and recorded our very first Pelangacast live from our LP clubhouse! The concept is not to have the typical radio “programmed show,” but instead to invite you into our cozy wall-to-wall collection of culture on vinyl as we share stories and discoveries from our musical addictions.
Below is our first episode with more to come soon. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.
Advice – I. C. Rock
Ce La Vie – Les Difficiles De Pétion-Ville
Ah Ah Oh No – La Protesta (ft. Joe Arroyo)
El Preso – Louis Towers [NOTE: This unlabeled record was in a Grupo Kuwait sleeve, but it’s actually Louis Towers]
(Where Were You) Last Night – Sumy
Banana Juana – Ralph Robles
Guami Guami – Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Melody Maestros
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?
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…
I like the new year’s resolution, Pozole! I’ve also been feeling like it’s time to turn up the heat around here. Luckily Pozole and Smokestack have been doing just that for a while, but it’s time to do my share. Here are two records I’ve been meaning to track down for a couple of years (without paying a fortune for them), and finally got a hold of.
We keep coming back to Fruko; we’re neither the first ones nor the last ones to pay tribute to him. You probably know El Preso. Classic! But the man is behind so much more of our favorite Colombian music (Michi Sarmiento, Corraleros de Majagual, Wganda Kenya, Afrosound, Joe Arroyo, Latin Brothers…) and was pretty fundamental in shaping the sound of Colombian salsa in the 70s: rooted in the cumbia tradition, and incorporating a Nuyorican style horn section, a punk rock attack, and a good dose of flower-powered experimentation.
Fruko y sus Tesos started out heavy with “Tesura”, of which supposedly there are only 400 copies. How’s this for an introduction?
Teso! “Dude is wearing a pistol around his neck, a necktie as a belt, a giant gold medallion on his dog, and ready to throw down with salsa breaks so hard that they’re breaking bottles in the middle of the song.” Pozole, here’s your request:
I’m sure a lot of collectors can sympathize: I have a big pile of *great* records that I still haven’t had the time to listen to, not even once. Yeah, yeah, something about wanting to *really* listen to them… If you understand, you understand.
Anygüey, I tell you this because last night I had this really vivid dream where I *finally* played this incredible record that has been in that pile for more than six months. I figure that’s a sign, no?