Some records from the shelves just scream for attention.
Walking through the now-defunct Dance Music Records in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, I found myself struggling to find something that warranted the little bit of cash that I had left for the last day of my vacation. Having read a Wax Poetics article some years earlier that covered Cuban music and its wildly interesting musical history, this record immediately jumped out at me. Without a listening station and very little information to go on, I made a blind purchase.
Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
This compilation popped into my head again after a fantastic little mini-documentary that Questlove of The Roots did for a slew of DJ gigs he did in Havana, Cuba (you can watch the documentary here). There’s a number of great moments in the doc, but the part where he talks about the importance of cultural ideas getting exchanged and how it keeps the culture alive, fascinated me. How hip-hop crosses cultural boundaries has always been to me one of the most interesting aspects of the genre, and this little quote rings even more true with this compilation because during the more oppressive, isolated years of Cuban history, Western sounds and influence managed to make their way into the music.
Which brings us to this compilation we have here. Unfortunately, I never managed to snag a copy of the now, out-of-print vol.1 copy so I can’t compare vol.1 to this volume. But from what I’ve heard, the first volume was a far more straightforward funk affair with Latin influences. This one here is a far more “out there” compilation of funk-infused Latin music than anything else (and I am very much okay with that). In fact, there’s tons of hints of psych-rock littered throughout the album as well. Very few of the songs on here are straightforward. Shifting time signatures, poly-rhythms and percussion freak outs, and punctuated with blasts of horns and organ.
I live for this kind of stuff.
The quality of the musicianship on here is absolutely top notch. Notable highlights from the album include the excellent cover of an American deep-funk song, Vehicle, the shape-shifting, psychedelic goodness of Siboney, and the excellent one, two punch of the opening two songs, El 4-6-6 and Suspirando Por El Chikichaka. Both are the most indicative of the rest of the album: heavy on the Latin side of things but with a definite funk flare to them.
Really there isn’t a bad track on here. The one thing to keep in mind though is that this isn’t a drum-break heavy compilation like the previous ones I mentioned in my first blog post (which if you’re new to the blog, you can check out my starter guide to deep funk compilations for stuff like that!). But if you enjoy and/or are fascinated with other country’s interpretations of western music genres like I am, this is totally worth a listen. That aspect alone should hopefully get you curious.