¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat: Juntos (review)

Reflections and celebrations are equally funky on tropical Juntos.

¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat


(Esso Afrojam Funkbeat)

Release Date: 8 Sep 2017

It's appropriate that ¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat is based in the Heartland. The group sounds like love, with pulsing, vital rhythms and a knack for putting together warm sounds from funk, hip-hop, tropical Latin music, Afropop, and cumbia in such a way that they raise each other up high. On Juntos, the collective continues to bring sunshine to the Windy City, mixing up Afro-Latin club bangers like "Meet Me Out" and city street jams like "Mi Gente" with celebration and depth. Between moments of jubilation are more introspective songs like "Stone Eagle", reflecting on gentrification and its relationship to colonialism, and the slower, more melancholy "Noche Tras Dia", which sways and swings at a gentler tempo.

Over the course of 13 tracks, the group takes full advantage of the range of musical influences at hand, evoking disparate places and times and making them feel thoroughly modern. Hypnotic "Homenaje" draws on a high-pitched guitar line that brings to mind urban pan-African pop and entrancing woodsy percussion; "Mariposa Negra" sees classic son cubano cut with retro house beats. Juntos is an exploration of great beats, and the fact that ¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat is clearly enjoying putting them together makes the music that much sweeter.


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