40. V/A-Legends of Benin
There is fallout from all the African funk compilations that have been released over the last couple of years and it’s that they are all too much for most African music listeners to keep up with. What differentiates Legends of Benin from rest is that it concentrates on songs over funky beats, with each song being full of melody as well as danceable. Analog Africa, the label who brought us African Scream Contest last year, has another gem on their hands.
39. V/A-Back To Peru Vol.2
Back To Peru Vol. 2 is chock full of nuggets from the golden years of Peruvian Psychedelic and garage music with a heavy emphasis on the early 70’s period. Peru’s rock bands are raw in comparison to most groups in Latin America that were around during this time and this compilation captures that spirit with plenty of fuzz guitar and snotty anti-establishment anthems.
38. Os Mutantes- Haih Or Amortecedor
A misunderstood album I thought. I think people expected the Mutantes of old to magically reappear after many years on hiatus. Original member Sergio Dias' songwriting and musicianship has preserved well over the years, only his energy has been transferred. Yes, it has modern instrumentation and a new batch of musicians but it also retains much of that great prankster spirit of the original group. This is one I hope people revisit as time goes on.
37. Pa’sumecha-Son Jarocho
This album is as barebones as it gets for Son Jarocho. Most tracks are just the Jarana, Marimbula (a cajon/marimba that doubles as both a percussion and bass instrument), Quijada (jawbone) and voice. The improvisational skills from this small group are pretty amazing. It's as untraditional as traditional can get. The Mexicali based Pa’sumecha just blew the Amoeba doors down during their in-store performance earlier this year, surprising an unexpected and discerning Amoeba staff to prick up there ears and ask, “Who are these guys?”
36. Buika w/ Chucho Valdes-El Ultimo Trago
El Ultimo Trago is a tribute to the great Costa Rican/Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. Buika digs in to Chavela's catalog of standards and reinterprets them into Jazzy boleros. Buika’s Flamenco background serves her well, as her big voice conquers songs that Vargas helped make famous while giving infamous Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes a run for his money. Made to sip tequila to rather than take a shot.
35. Ruben Blades- Cantares del Subdesarrollo
One of my biggest joys this year was meeting Ruben Blades as he hand delivered Cantares del Subdesarrollo to Amoeba Hollywood so his fans did not have to pay the ridiculous import prices. Blades' songwriting is stronger than ever and each song is like reading a short story, full of interesting characters and observations. Done in Cuban Son and Puerto Rican Plena style, this is not one to burn the dance floor to (although it is danceable), but instead, sit and appreciate Ruben’s tales.
34. Son De Madera - Son De Mi Tierra
In laymen Beatles comparisons, if 2005’s Son De Madera's La Qrquestra De Dia was the Sgt Pepper of Son Jarocho, Son De Mi Tierra is like Let It Be, a back to the basics album that proves why Son De Madera are the best at what they do. Ramón Gutiérrez and Tereso Vega’s Jarana and Requito interplay is as seamless and natural as their voices. Along with Juan Perez's baby bass, Son De Madera shows the connection between Son Jarocho and Jazz. The songs are mostly Son Jarocho standards, due to the fact that they were signed to the Smithsonian Folkways label and they are great at selling tradition. However, this would be a great place to start if you are new to the group.
33. Chico Mann- Analog Drift (Muy...Esniqui)
Analog Drift... recalls the days back in the 80's when musicians from the U.S. and England started listening to African and Cuba music. Artists such as The Talking Heads, Grace Jones, Hector Zazou and even Michael Jackson had elements of African music in some of their biggest hits. Chico Mann merges his love of funk and freestyle with Afro-Beat and Afro-Cuban music, making this an infectious, low-key dance record.
32. Amadou and Miriam- Welcome To Mali
I respect Amadou And Miriam for trying something different on each album. They could continue to be the darlings of Malian music just by releasing albums as great as 2003’s Wati over and over again. However, I think most people agree that they are bigger than that and their music should be as revered as most pop artists' is. I’m glad to see them on late-night shows, festivals and even opening for a band like Coldplay. Everyone should see them live at least once. Welcome to Mali has a pop album philosophy behind it. It also has name producers (Damon Albarn produced a few tracks), collaborations (K'Naan) and plenty of industry buzz. At the core are Amadou and Miriam's songs of love for people, places and things; it is a sweet and endearing album.
31. Bomba Estereo-Blow Up
Bomba Estereo from Bogotá, Colombia, cannot escape the sound that is in their blood. The Cumbia rhythm, which seems to define Colombians, is the foundation of their music. However, it is layered underneath the surfy guitar, spacey keyboards, Dancehall vocals and dub bass. The hypnotic beat and the layers of sounds make a perfect background for singer Liliana Saumet's vocals. She is a mixture of M.I.A.and La Mala Rodriguez by the way of Annabelle Lwin from Bow Wow Wow. Their music hits you like a wave. You can resist it but it's better just to ride with it.