I am of Askenazi Jewish descent. Growing up, the community around Golders Green, in North West London, included a mixture of Jewish religious sects intertwined with various Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities. As a result I grew up Celebrating Multiculturalism. (It helped that it was a relatively prosperous area; the corrosive effects of poverty on race relations are well known).
Thus when I heard the story of the Tokyo band who took the salsa world by storm, I had to investigate further. They had broken into the New York Salsa scene with their first record in 1990, and were the best Salsa band in the world for two or three years in the early 90s.
Their rise to stardom was helped by a transition in the structure of the record industry. The Fania label, which had rejuvenated the Latin music scene a decade earlier and invented the tag salsa, had hit financial trouble and was in decline. The new kid on the block, Rmm was on the lookout to sign the next big thing when they heard Tito Puente marvelling at the local band who had supported him at a gig in Japan.
Orquesta de la Luz write exclusively in Spanish (although they have been to cover songs in English or French). Multiculturalism is a theme of much of their work, with songs like salsa no tiennes fronteras and [track artist]somos differentes[/track].
There music is fairly straightforward salsa, with very strict tempo, and two special features:
Firstly, there is lovely, warm voice of their lead singer, Nora, She slightly over-enunciates all of her syllables. This may have started because she is singing in a foreign language but the effect is to add punch to the rhythm
Second is the distinctive sound of there horn section. Tighter than the skin on their timbales, they arrange for horn notes to stop, start and overlap with millisecond tolerances.
A slightly more racist childhood memory of mine is the pop-culture stereotype that the Japanese take the best ideas from the West, miniaturise them and sell them back to us. Naturally, as I matured, I dismissed it as tosh. The story of Orquesta de la Luz, made me wonder how much truth their is in the characterization. Then I discovered that the 2003 dancehall queen of Jamaica was a Japanese lady called Junko...
Gloria Estafan is a Cuban-American from Miami. Her Grandparents were heavily involved in the Batista regime in Cuba and fled the Castro revolution. And in many ways she reflects the contradictions of the Miami Cuban community
As a community, Miami is rabidly republican and anti-communist; demonising Fidel and lobbying against any relaxation of the US sanctions that, in my opinion, have kept the communist reign intact in Cuba despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cubans are a diaspora, longing to return to a pastoral, idealised free market Cuba that never existed. It is a world-view that ignores the corruption and mafia-domination that blighted the islands past while also ignoring the health and education systems that mitigate the lack of freedom in Cuba today.
Here is a picture of a young Gloria with Miami Sound Machine. Gloria married the band's leader, Emilio Estefan. Indeed it is still Gloria's backing band; it didn't die, it just faded away.
They started out doing disco music in the 70s. As a young teenager I found that Dr. Beat was enjoyable and stuck in my head. Unfortunately it was exceedingly uncool: guilty pleasures.
Much later in life, when I started to learn about the roots of salsa, I came across Gloria's name again. Salsa is strongly influenced by traditional Cuban musical styles, particularly son, and Ms Estafan had produced an album of son and danzón
The album is brilliant because it is from the heart. Nostalgic longing generates a reverential love for Cuban tradition in the singer, and this bitter-sweet cocktail of emotions underlies the unity of the album. In some ways it reminds me of Canciones De Mi Padre, in which Mexican-American Linda Rondstadt pays tribute to mariachi.
The backing band is very fine including famous names like Tito Puente (timbales) and Israel Cachao Lopez (bass). And the guitar work is excellent; it sounds almost like tres.
Glorias singing voice is pure and sweet. It is interesting that in the improvisational parts of the son montuno, she does not improvise lyrics as you would expect from, for example, Celia Cruz. Rather she improvises melodic variations on a phrase from the main song. I wonder whether this is an influence from Soul or RnB singing styles.
This journal is in two parts: The first part, between the videos is about the album. The second part, below the videos, is about the religion.
When Ry Cooder made a set of recordings with elderly Cuban musicians, it threw a spotlight on the traditional Cuban rhythms and styles, and made them internationally fashionable. However the high point of rhythms like Son Cubano etc. in Cuba itself had been in the Batista era. True they had travelled to the USA at the time of the revolution and spawned salsa, and they remained popular with the elderly and in the countryside. However the urban poor youth had developed their own styles influenced by gangsta rap, and they used those styles to describe their plight.
One enterprising group of Cuban hip-hop artists decided to do whatever was necessary to take their voice to the world, so they travelled to Paris and softened their beats with traditional rhythms. This enabled them to get a record contract and their first album was
I first heard about the album in a glowing Guardian review, The review was so good I just bought the album without hearing it. Shockingly, the album was better than described. Sinuous bass lines creep seductively around latin rhythms and crisply delivered rap.
Some of the youth in the Cuban barrios thought that it was a sell-out, softening the rhythms that represent them. However that is like accusing Bob Marley for selling out when he did what was necessary to bring reggae to a world stage. The point of having a voice is to be heard. The orishas were heard by everyone, young and old, Cuban and foreign. Even Fidel Castro heard what they had to say (he threw a party in their honour in 1990)
The name 'orishas' refers to the gods of the Lucumi religion of the Yoruba people from Nigeria. They are mythological memories of the kings of the city of Ife which flourished around 500AD (whose material importance had diminished, as its spiritual importance rose, with the arrival of the Yoruba). Since they had no writing we know little about the historical Ife, but we do have its heads
The religion travelled the Atlantic with the slaves where it hid underneath a guise of being Catholic to create Syncretic religions. In these religions the African Orishas are identified with Catholic Saints. The most important such religions are Candomblé in Brazil and Santeria in Cuba. Vodun (Voodoo) in Haiti is similar but more complex, also incorporating other pantheons from Africa (and possibly some Carib ones).
Each orisha has it's own ritual symbols, colours, and rhythms that are used to evoke them during worship. You can hear some of the traditional rhythms on the album Bembé by Milton Cardona.
This is Elegua, messenger of the gods. It is a ritual image made from concrete and cowrie shells. Cowrie shells were once money in inland Africa. They are also used for divination in Lucumi ritual. Elegua is symbolised by crossroads. Many say he is the devil that gave the gift of the Blues to Robert Johnson. He is mentioned in Canto Para Elewa Y Changó along with
Changó, god of Thunder. Changó is syncretised with Santa Barbara. A very famous song about him is Celina González - Santa Barbara, although, outside Cuba, it is mostly heard due to a cover by Celia Cruz.
This is Bablu Aye, as he is known in Cuba. In Nigeria he is called Omolu. He is god of smallpox. He covers himself with a special loose straw outfit that covers his face. It is rumoured it is to prevent the pox chaffing. In Cuba he is syncretised with Lazarus. He was regularly serenaded on I love Lucy by her husband: Desi Arnaz - Babalu
This is Yemaya, goddess of rivers. She is honoured together with Oshun, goddess of the sea, in La India - Yemaya Y Ochun
The succesful entry of the Latin countries last year to the ISF made that Bolivia made it's entry this year at the isf stage. Miranda! with Perfect has been a big hit, and thanks to the participation at the ISF they also conquered many european and asian listeners with their song Perfecta. Though the winner last year did well, it can be said that the world audience was clearly in favor of the Argenitinian band. For this year not all Latin entries are known yet, but we are almost there:
Argentina: Teen Angels - Que Nos Volvamos A Ver Bolivia: Javier Cani - Si La Vieran Brazil: Ivete Sangalo - Agora eur já sei Chile: Kudai - Lejos de Aquí Colombia: ChocQuibTown - Somas Pacifico Cuba: Willie Chirino - Pa' Lante Ecuador: Gustavo Herrera - Vuelve Mexico: Espinoza Pas - Lo Intentamos Puerto Rico: Kany Garciá - Estigma De Amor Venezuela: Carlos Baute y Marta Sánchez - Colgando en tus manos
As for Europe, the mediterean countries: Spain: Beatrice Luengo - Pretendo Hablarte Portugal: Mickael Carreira - Perdi O Teu Amor
Me encontre con esta página mientras que estaba arreglando unos tags en la base de datos que uso mediante winamp. Pues no daba con la imagen del albúm de White Zombie! Normalmente me meto a wikipedia a verificar alguna cosa relacionada con el artista y sus canciones.
Despues que termine me pregunte ¿Sera que wikipedia tendra su base de datos populados con información sobre artistas colombianos? Hice encuesta sobre varios grupos y nada, hasta que di con Orquesta Guayacán. Pero en los resultados salio Music of Colombia.
So imagine coming onto this page while fixing some tags related to White Zombie!! Curiosity peaked and while on wikipedia.org I thought about whether or not wikipedia had pages about Colombian music artists. Searched a couple but came up empty. Then I got a hit using Orquesta Guayacán. Search page results turned up the following great article summarizing the wide and varied genres of Colombian music. Awe inspiring in some respects - take a look for yourself:
A wonderful recap of the origins of this song comes from Wolfgang Martin Stroh, professor emiritus at the University of Oldenburg, Germany:
Joe Arroyo y la Verdad "Yamulemau"
In 1971, when he was only 16 years old, Joe Arroyo began singing in Fruko y sus Tesos, the most important salsa band of the time. The happy vibrancy of his voice and the mischievousness of his movements soon made him famous, and he recorded and performed with other popular bands. He finally started his own band, La Verdad (The Truth), in 1981. With his own orchestra, Joe Arroyo could now give free reign to his creativity as an arranger, singer-songwriter and composer.
Arroyo is a versatile singer of many Caribbean rhythms and sings music ranging from sones and boleros to the cumbias andfandangos of his native region. A native of Cartagena, he was exposed to and inspired by africanand afro-caribbean music from a very young age, and he regularly invents new rhythms and styles with roots in these traditions.
"Yamulemau" was originally recorded as "Diamoule" by Laba Sosseh, a singer from the West African country Gambia. An interesting example of cultural interaction between Africa and the Americas, Sosseh was first inspired by popular cuban music and salsa. Arroyo sings "Yamulemau" in the original African language, imitating the phonetics much the same way African artists like Sosseh have done with Spanish. Una breve traducción:
Yamulemau fue grabada originalmente como Diamoule por Laba Sosseh, un cantador de el país de Gambia. Un ejemplo interesante de la interacción cultural entre Africa y las Americas, Sosseh fue inspirado primero por música popular cubana y la salsa. Arroyo canta Yamulemau en su idioma Africano original, imitando las foneticas en la misma manera que artistas africanos como Sosseh an hecho con el Español...