Music

Various Artists: Latin Groove

Nicole Pensiero

Various Artists

Latin Groove

Label: Putumayo
US Release Date: 2002-03-12
UK Release Date: 2002-04-22
Amazon
iTunes

World music purveyors Putumayo really nails it with this compilation, a spicy musical stew that proves sound of musical worlds colliding can, indeed, be beautiful. In fact, with Latin Groove, it's pretty apparent that the Latin genre, per se, has almost limitless potential to appeal to various audiences in various countries. That's because Latin music, with its intrinsic flexibility, can meld with many other styles while retaining its innate earthiness and elegance. Even more importantly, Latin music has the wonderful ability of not only bringing cultures together but uniting generations of music lovers -- Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club was a perfect example of something old becoming something wonderfully new.

Latin Groove is a terrific showcase for contemporary fusions of salsa, cumbia, son, flamenco, reggae, and even electronica. The artists featured here seem to have two factors in common: youth and a penchant for experimentation. But they've have created music as diverse as places from where they come -- locales that include Mexico, Columbia, France (via Nicaragua), and even San Francisco. That so many musicians, from so many different places and cultures, are creating ever-original (and many times challenging) hybrids of Latin music proves the genre's expanding appeal.

In keeping with the Putumayo tradition, Latin Groove contains detailed, wonderfully readable background information on each of the 11 artists featured. The album kicks off with the catchy "El Carretero" ("The Cart Driver"), by Paris-based Barrio Cubano de Ronald Rubinel. That track -- a classic Cuban guajira that's been updated with a funky drumbeat and the potent rap of hip-hop collective Chicos de Acero -- sets the tone for all that follows. Upbeat, danceable and unmistakably confident-sounding, the songs on Latin Groove may well appeal to those not normally turned on by the genre. The reason for that cross-over potential is simple: the songs found on this album sound decidedly modern -- outright hip, in fact -- despite the fact they never stray far from their musical roots of decades past. Classic Cuban styles like son and guajira, which have been around for more than a century, sound totally at ease amid the digital workings of today's avant-garde DJs like Londoner Richard Blair, the Columbian-influenced drum 'n bass artist known as Sidestepper, who contributes the intensely urgent "Linda Manigua" to this collection.

From the edgy, experimental sounds of French duo Funkanzazenji on "Latin Flavour" -- a tune that combines jazz, flamenco hand claps and harp -- to the sultry funk-pop of Columbia's superstar duo Aterciopelados ("El Estuche"), there's an urban, up-to-date feel woven throughout the music here. Those "right now" sounds holds true even on El Conjunto Massalia's updated take on Cuban star Compay Segundo's classic son, "Chan Chan." (In a charming tribute, group leader Doume Gaspari does a little Spanish language rap at the song's end that mentions Segundo by his birth name, Francisco Repilado).

San Francisco-based Los Mocosos offers up "Soy Callejero" ("I'm From the Streets"), a funky Latin groove featuring blazing horns, Santana-inspired guitar playing and drum programming set to slightly cocky lyrics that tell of the band's origins. New York's Si Se (which records for David Bryne's Luaka Bop label) combines electronica with hip-hop and Afro-Cuban riffs on the stellar "Bizcocho Amargo," which is elevated further by the potent vocals of Carol C.

Latin Groove focuses on the most danceable, humable, and appealing aspects of the Latin pop movement, while smartly avoiding Latin American bands whose ideas of originality comes down to mimicking Anglo-American pop. This is the genuine article, rising up from the barrios of South America, South Los Angeles, and Europe. Fun and funky, it's the perfect record to put on when that dinner party seems to be getting a tad too listless.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.