Sofrito: International Soundclash

More fantastic music, old and new, from across the globe brought to us by London based Sofrito Djs Hugo Mendez and Frankie Francis.


International Soundclash

Label: Strut
US Release Date: 2012-07-24
UK Release Date: 2012-07-24
Label Website
Artist Website

According to Wikipedia, Sofrito is a ‘combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces, and slowly sautéed or braised in cooking oil…’. Such a description perfectly fits the aesthetics at play on the follow up to Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque by DJs Hugo Mendez and Frankie Francis Sofrito: International Soundclash.

Sofrito itself started life, and still exists, in East London (the area of London where the Olympics are taking place), in the mid 2000s and built its legendary reputation on its Tropical Warehouse Parties, known and cherished for the quality and diversity of its music policy; only the best, deepest, oldest and newest cuts, drawn from across the globe but with an emphasis on tropical and African sounds -- Nigerian acid boogie, Trinidadian soca, Colombia cumbia and other exotic music -- made it to the turntables, and it was turntables, these guys are serious crate diggers in their never-ending search for the perfect beat. Their love of the black wax is evidenced in the release of the album on a double vinyl pressing, complete with gorgeous artwork designed by Lewis Heriz.

Such has been the consistent quality of the releases on Sofrito, namely 12” singles, that the label has reached the level of ‘quality assured’ joining luminaries such as Mr Bongo, Honest Jons, Brownswood and further afield Soundsway and Vampisoul in that you know that what you don’t know, will be worth knowing if it is released on one of these labels!

There are some real treats on this album, none more so than the opener by Lord Shorty & Vibrations International “Vibrations Groove”. With an opening line, delivered in deep, sonorous, rich velvet Trinidadian tones (how many more clichés?) “My name is Lord Shorty / And my band is the Vibrations International / We want to introduce you to a new musical sound called Soca / The sound of Calypso.”

Lord (Ras) Shorty then proceeds to talk us through how he structures this ‘new’ sound, calling on his musicians by name to step forward and play their component parts, starting with Paul Rouse and the bass drum. And this is all it takes for an instant foot tapping, head nodding, and smile inducing musical adventure to start. As each member steps forward, the groove gets more and more infectious and all the time Lord Shorty is exhorting us to get into it, and boy, I’m there. It’s a bonkers way to kick off an album but it works brilliantly, you’re immediately hooked.

Next up La Pesada throw up shimmering cumbia with “Cumbia y Tambo (En La Lluvia), great horn section and piano lines over a repeating vocal line and it’s into the Afro-Caribbean sounds of the Midnight Groovers and their very African sounding guitar rhythms played over organ and Caribbean vocal patterns.

The majestic London/Nairobi collaboration that is the Owiny Sigoma Band contributes a previously unreleased version of the track “Nabed Nade Ei Piny Ka F”, which highlights the continued evolution of cross cultural and global music. It’s outrageously hypnotic and just gets into a groove and stays there like a never ending 45” spinning round and round and round and... This then segues into the equally hypnotic voodoo rhythms of “Lese Yo Pale” by the Guadeloupe group Mas Ka Klé but this time it is more of a leg shaker and you can see dance floors quickly filling to these sounds.

Other highlights are Bell’a Njoh squelchy bass lines and Stevie Wonder like fat keys on the uplifting “Ebolo”, and Sofrito’s own house/disco/pan edit of the 1979 killer track by Concept Neuf’, “The Path”. Another absolute guaranteed floor filler on this album.

A personal favourite comes near the end with Sartana et Son Groupe Mistral’s call and response and solo vocal track “Information Par Le Mistral”. The drums keep up an incessant driving percussion in tandem with the bass and it never lets up once in the entire 5’20 duration. Simply a stunning song and one I’m grateful to Hugo and Frankie for introducing me to. But the highlights keep coming, none more so than with Afro Festival led by Fantastic Tchico Tchicaya and “El Manicero”, a 1979 song, recorded in Lagos, by a Congolese musician that has elements of Mariachi, Chanson, Steel Pan Caribbean and African rhythms and is over eight minutes long. I mean, how do begin to critique that? Answer is you don’t. You just sit back and savour its brilliance.

Everything about this record is quality, from the double vinyl release, the individual and thoughtfully designed artwork, the impeccable sequencing of the tracks and of course the incredible array of sounds from across the globe that come together to make the hour or so of listening so pleasurable and where suddenly the world a much sunnier and better place to be.

This album will please those armchair musical anthropologists amongst us whilst appealing to the merely curious. Whichever camp you fall into, you won’t be disappointed with your purchase of this stunning album.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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