Various Artists: ¡Mo’ Vida!

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By Barbara Flaska

This delightful collection of Latin-flavored music is a celebration of new days coming. “Movida” is Cuban street slang for a party. In that sense, this offering is like the hip dance party it is and the hip dance party your place will become when you put this record on. While the selections exemplify the growing influence of Latin music on the international music scene, best keep in mind that this record is at a leading edge. They have set down now where Latin music will most likely be headed next.

As such, this collection is au current in the finer sense of the word. All the music is built on the strong foundation of Afro-Latin rhythms. Latin music has swept the world again and is coursing rapidly into music developing in other parts of the world. The appeal of Latin music can be broadly outlined as its rhythms, melodies, and long culture, but the very fluidity of many Latin meters allow for successful infusion in dance music. Here, artists from around the world are experimenting with Latin, and using contemporary African-American urban styles as the forefront of the new blends. The new course is charted towards tasty Latin-flavored funk, hip-hop, ska, and soul.

From the Afro-Latin funk of Ricardo Lemvo to the Cuban hip-hop of Orishas, here is the new direction of Afro-Latin. Sergent Garcia mixes his steamy salsa into his funky little jam. Raised in the barrios of Paris, Garcia creates “Hoy Me Voy” (“I’m Leaving Today”) in a style he calls salsamuffin. The French salsa rap of Alliance Ethnic is featured along with the French tropical hip-hop of Menelik. In Miami, the Honduran Bombon creates a stylish modern music in his mix of Jamaican ragamuffin, Cuban son, and funk. His “Se Escaparon,” (“They Escaped”) is a story of rebellious youth, girls sneaking away from the house in their glad rags, only to be found out on the dance floor by their surprised father, who thought they were asleep at home. The stately Xiomara Fortuna in the Dominican Republic composes her cosmopolitan blends of the carabine (a rarified local rhythm) with reggae and merengue, while San Francisco’s Los Mocosos (the Snot-noses) create their new-jack boogalu. In New York, King Chango introduces ska to cha cha cha, and creates a “Melting Pot” of lyrics in four languages, all basically saying “dance, baby, dance.”

Most of the music on Mo Vida is courtesy of leasing agreements, the examples culled from specialty labels by Putumayo’s dedicated staff of resident ethnomusicologists. The only exception is the one song recorded especially for this collection. L.A.-based Patricia Melecio teamed up with producer David Snyder to record the infectious “Funky Latin Boogalu.” Boogalu is one fine style, and has a very direct appeal, centering around repetitive choruses and down and dirty grooves. Boogalu emerged in the 1960’s when Latin musicians living in urban settings such as New York City began blending the elements of their parents’ music (the son, mambo, and cha cha cha) with the funk and soul of their African-American neighbors. I’ll stop here, this is what’s happening again. The neighborhood boundaries just got a little bigger. This is a wonmderful record.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/various-movida/