[31 July 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Philadelphia’s Rich Medina and New York City’s Bobbito have been DJing together for quite some time. On The Connection Volume One, they show that Afrobeat and Latin dance music go far beyond Fela Kuti and Rubén Blades. Most of the two dozen tracks featured here are indeed contemporary. On Medina’s Afrobeat disc, the style’s touchstones haven’t changed much since Kuti’s heyday. Rattling, double-time snares, sinewy funk guitar lines, declarative horn blasts, and deep bass dominate. Everything’s funky, of course, but there are some twists, such as Chico Mann’s moody, hip-hop flavored “Sound Is Everything”. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the controversial matter of Kuti’s often-bilious lyrics.
Puerto Rican-descended Bobbito handles the Latin disc. Dealing with a much broader palate, he takes in salsa, jazz, nu-soul, bossa, and, of course, funk. As you might expect, things are much more relaxed, breezy, and harmony-rich here. At first listen, you may think Bobbito’s gone the more traditional route. Look more closely, though, and the heavy funk of tracks like the Quantic Soul Orchestra’s “Lead Us to the End” comes into focus. Throughout both discs, modern hip-hop and electronic touches remind you that most of this music was created in the 21st Century. Whatever your angle, The Connection Volume One is eclectic, funky, and a perfectly fun soundtrack for summertime.