The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

The fer­men­ta­tion of Cuban in­gre­di­ents into salsa may have been fused in the bar­rios of New York and Puerto Rico, but Colom­bian mu­si­cians have added con­sid­er­able con­tem­po­rary spice to generic Latino dance mu­sic. Mixed with mod­ern cred and folk rhythms that re­flect the coun­try’s ge­o­graphic and eth­nic di­ver­sity, 21st-cen­tury Colom­bian salsa is a sizzling hot­pot — as ex­em­pli­fied by La Mam­bane­gra and Sys­tema So­lar. The spirit of “ver­bena” (pop­u­lar street par­ties) in­hab­its both bands and their new al­bums. El Cal­legueso y su Mala Mana ric­o­chets off the streets of Cali, the salsa cap­i­tal of Colom­bia near the coun­try’s Pa­cific coast. Rumbo a Tierra is more re­flec­tive of the Caribbean coast, where Bar­ran­quilla-based Sys­tema So­lar crosses styles such as cham­peta and cumbi­abased bullerengue with an­i­mated chants, elec­tron­ica and hefty beats. Although they hold noth­ing back, La Mam­bane­gra has a more or­ganic sound that melds classic 1970s-style Nuy­or­i­can salsa, James Brown soul and R & B via driv­ing jazz-charged brass and key­boards, pul­sat­ing per­cus­sion (tim­bales, con­gas, bon­gos, et al) and a hand­ful of ebul­lient singers led by an MD, vo­cal­ist/sax­o­phon­ist Ja­cobo Velez, who would make St Vi­tus seem seden­tary. Their elec­tri­fy­ing groove in­duced even in­vet­er­ate non-dancers to shed their in­hi­bi­tions at the re­cent WOMADe­laide fes­ti­val. La Mam­bane­gra’s polyrhyth­mic break salsa might be best ab­sorbed in a live sit­u­a­tion, but there’s no short­age of en­ergy gen­er­ated in its lat­est stu­dio pro­duc­tion. There’s also no mis­tak­ing the high qual­ity of mu­si­cian­ship on El Cal­legueso y su Mala Mana La Mam­bane­gra Movimien­tos/Planet Rumbo a Tierra Sys­tema So­lar Na­cional Records of­fer, from the killer brass groove of set opener Puro Potenkem to the Cuban tres gui­tar-en­hanced sign-off Bar­rio Caliento. In be­tween tracks fea­ture the chops of such well­con­nected guest in­stru­men­tal­ists as Cuban trum­peter Yasek Man­zano Silva (Celia Cruz, Los Van Van, Irakere) and New York-based Colom­bian pian­ist Eddy Martinez (Ray Bar­retto, Ed­die Palmieri, Tito Puente). Band­leader Velez shines as a singer on the Afro-heavy call-and-response romp La Fokin Bomba and as a sax­o­phon­ist via a scream­ing solo on set stand­out Me Parece Per­fecto.

While it might lack its com­pa­tri­ots’ so­phis­ti­ca­tion, Sys­temo So­lar has an idio­syn­cratic, in­cen­di­ary style that’s con­sis­tent with sound sys­tem/DJ cul­ture. The band’s self-tagged Ber­be­nau­tika det­o­nates AfroCaribbean folk­loric roots with rap­ping, toast­ing, pro­gram­ming, a bat­tery of per­cus­sion and po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary. Even the most FM ra­dio-friendly num­ber, Rum­bera —a song se­lected for the of­fi­cial FIFA 17 soccer sound­track — con­tains scratch­ing in tan­dem with cumbia cow­bell. Blues har­mon­ica and a heavy rock beat crash against the cham­peta rhythm of Champe Tabluo. Wheezy ac­cor­dion chords as­so­ci­ated with val­lenato (a Colom­bian folk genre) vie with thump­ing beats and clam­orous vo­cals in So­mos la Tierra. A tra­di­tional cane flute com­petes with elec­tronic drums, scratch­ing and pitched-up vo­cals in Aguazero. In the open­ing cut, Tum­ba­mu­ral­las, su­per­charged cumbia cross-rhythms com­bine with elec­tron­ica, scratch­ing and chant­ing.

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