Anibal Velásquez y Su Conjunto: Mambo Loco

The only downside of this compilation is its brevity; it's a short, sweet dose of tropical medicine that will doubtless leave listeners wanting more.

Anibal Velásquez y Su Conjunto

Mambo Loco

Label: Analog Africa
US Release Date: 2010-04-27
UK Release Date: 2010-04-12

Analog Africa, the reissue label that releases the results of crate-digging forays by DJ Samy Ben Redjeb, has focused for most of its brief history on the 1970s recordings of Beninese musicians, such as the splendid Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. The label swaps continents for this release, which focuses, as do recent compilations from similarly-minded labels Soundway and Vampisoul, on Colombia. Redjeb has chosen the accordionist Anibal Velásquez as the featured artist for this new venture, and Mambo Loco presents ten typically catchy numbers by the man and his conjunto.

In Colombian music, the accordion is most closely associated with vallenato, a zydeco-like genre driven by accordion and scraped percussion. Those elements are certainly to be found in Velásquez's music, and the band with which he made his first recordings in 1952 was called Los Vallenatos de Magdalena. However, the music on offer here would not all be classified as classic vallenato, being instead a mixture of that genre, cumbia, Cuban guaracha, and much else besides. Velásquez was known as a musical innovator, bringing a fusion of old and new Latin styles to the Colombian music scene movement known as Música Tropical.

Velásquez was born in Barranquilla (Shakira's home town) and was responsible, like Lucho Bermúdez before him, for bringing the musical culture of that coastal city to the country's interior via tours, recordings, and television appearances. Velásquez's music retained more of the Afro-Caribbean tropicality associated with coastal musics such as cumbia, porro, and vallenato, and arguably represents a less watered-down version of such musics than was common following their translation to the more European highland cities of the interior.

There is certainly plenty of excitement in the tracks on offer here. Album opener "Carruseles" kicks off not with accordion, but with some classic Cuban-inspired piano, the keyboard lines working brilliantly with the Latin percussion and bass guitar to set up an irresistible groove. The song is definitively owned by Velásquez throughout via an infectious vocal that alternates the song title with interjections of the artist's name and lusty cries of "Mamita!" In case we're in any doubt as to whose song this is, Velásquez provides a ten second flurry of accordion at the song's close.

The groove continues wonderfully with "Los Vecinos", with additional acoustic guitar coming to the fore. "Cecilia" is another three-minute masterclass in brilliant rhythms (scraped, tapped, bashed, and shaken), jazzily cascading piano, and vocals that seem to insist enjoyment is mandatory. Velásquez's accordion is at its most fluid and dancing on "Mi Cumbia", which, despite its name, would seem to qualify more as classic vallenato in its instrumental configuration. At two minutes and 29 seconds, it's also a classic pop record.

"Que Paso" stretches itself to a relatively luxurious five and a half minutes, wrapping call-and-response vocals around the dancing lines of piano and accordion. It's actually possible to take a completely different journey to the one the main tune seems to suggest by following the minimalist abstractions of the bass guitar and the zigzagging path of the piano during its solo. It's not clear to what extent this is deliberate or accidental, but the result is thoroughly absorbing or infuriating, depending on your attitude to the strictures of musical timekeeping (it's best to relax and go with the former and be absorbed).

There's a ragged, rustic feel to "Vestido Novo" that suggests Velásquez was keen to stay connected to his roots in the coastal and rural regions of northern Colombia. One could imagine this as the result of an ethnographic field recording as much as the product of a modern recording studio. To say this is not to falsely primitivize Velásquez or his music, but rather to remain attuned to the basic essence he was trying to stay true to in these songs, a quality just as notable in the gimmicky, maniacal laughter that accompanies his hit recording "Mambo Loco". The delirium of this song fits both the pop market's desire for novelty and the trance-inducing sonic projection evident in the music's Afro-Colombian roots.

As an innovator, Velásquez was able to tap into both these worlds, producing hundreds of audience-friendly recordings that concisely expressed all that was and remains best about the multitude of cultural routes that Latin American music has taken. The only downside of this otherwise excellent compilation is its brevity; it's a short, sweet dose of tropical medicine that will doubtless leave listeners wanting more. Those so afflicted are directed towards the recent releases by Soundway and Vampisoul, and to the latest album by LA-based vallenato outfit Very Be Careful, all of which are helping to make this a very Colombian summer.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.