Various Artists: Nuevo Latino

Erica Chapman

Various Artists

Nuevo Latino

Label: Putumayo
US Release Date: 2004-05-25
UK Release Date: 2004-05-18

World music specialists Putumayo Records have turned out another outstanding international compilation; this time, it's the new flavor of Latin music that is featured on Nuevo Latino. Turning out over 100 world music compilations over the span of a decade, Putumayo has grown into a leading distributor of diverse international compilations. Nearly everyone has encountered their accessible, foreign-but-not-too-foreign-sounding music playing in the background while waiting for coffee at Starbucks, one of the nontraditional retailers Putumayo distributes to. Their CDs are self-described "guaranteed to make you feel good" compilations that span the musical offerings of nearly every region of the world.

Raul Paz's track, "Mulata", opens the album perfect for languid summer days and nights. With traditional wooden guiros keeping an exacting Latin backbeat, it is an appropriate opening to an album that features some of the most exciting bands in the Nuevo Latino music revolution. And the pioneers of the Nuevo Latino sound are creating sounds never heard before, thoroughly infusing Latin music with an entirely new international flair. Music, like many other aspects of Latin culture, is so heavily rooted in tradition, that the infusion of Jamaican, French, and American music is indeed revolutionary.

Los De Abajo are more electronic and mellow with their contribution, "El Indio". This song is an unexpected yet successful departure from the usual Los De Abajo salsa-ska-punk attack. Funky, animated drums and tambourines move the song along in step with a playful keyboard line. Los De Abajo are quickly becoming veterans in the progressive Latino music scene.

New York band Mosquitos deliver appealing calmness with their trancey, indie-infused sound. The repeating, wandering guitar riff floats clearly behind Brazilian vocalist Juju Stulbach's Girl from Ipanema-delivery. John Marshall Smith and Chris Root supply perfect instrumentation, a mesmerizing blend of guitar, synth, beats, and ambience. Fans of Mazzy Star, Lush, and recent tour mates Air would all be enchanted with Mosquitos. In fact, "Rainsong" is of such a caliber that it inspires an immediate need to hear the band's entire album.

Kad Achouri hails from southern France, and is of Spanish-Algerian descent. His captivating hip-hop beats and salsa piano lines meld into the perfect upbeat Nuevo Latino sound. His playful, danceable funkiness displays hints of a Latin De-Lite. Break this song out at your next party, and any lingering couch surfers will quickly be scattered to the dance floor.

Sergent Garcia continues to produce fantastic reggae vibes. The term "salsamuffin" has been coined, due in large part, to his contribution and innovation in the reggae/salsa/world music genre. Garcia reflects his French and Spanish heritage in using both languages within his music, in addition to the occasional English phrase. He is truly an international blend, combining all of his diverse influences to create a distinct, original sound. "Mi Ultima Voluntad (Tonite)" is yet another classic reggae-infused Sergent Garcia tune.

Spaniard Javier Alvarez was discovered performing in the subways of Madrid. His song, "Porque Te Vas", is a cover tune, written by countryman Jose Luis Petrales, and already turned into a hit by singer Jeanette. But this version, with its simple plucked nylon-string guitar and lone accordion behind an almost whispered "Why are you leaving?" is quiet, lonely, solemn, and is all Alvarez's. Alvarez's music reflects the influences he cites: Tracy Chapman, Nancy Griffith, and Suzanne Vega. It was a keen ear that picked out Alvarez's subway performance, and with his version of "Porque Te Vas", his place alongside Latin music pacesetters is without question.

Kana was born when a group of seven French reggae musicians traveled to the tiny island of Mauritius to record. "Original" is a dose of pure reggae with Spanish lyrics, courtesy of lead singer Zip, who hails from Spain. This is a good reggae tune from a tight band, and a fine example of the fun that can be had with music when cultures are crossed and genres intermingle.

This Putumayo release is one of the best the label has ever compiled. It is a thorough introduction to the wide variety of music within the Nuevo Latino movement, yet it is cohesive and has a theme woven throughout. Nuevo Latino succeeds in creating a seamless blend of reggae, salsa, rock, hip-hop and numerous other influences that have come together to create the New Latin sound.





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