Venezuela's Bituaya Live At Tropical De Nopal 7/24/11

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, July 25, 2011 12:59am | Post a Comment

Bituaya’s first show in Los Angles wasn’t met with much fanfare. Roughly sixty people came to their show Saturday at Tropical De Nopal gallery, hosted by Eclectica deejays Reyes and Glenn Red. After their seventy five minute set briefly stalled by power outages and a complaining neighbor who called the police, I can gladly say that I was there to witness one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, if not in the last few.

Bituaya hails from Venezuela, a country known by most Americans more for their oil, baseball players and of course, their leader Hugo Chavez, who is overly hated by the right and overly loved by the left. Venezuela has a rich music history, from the Joropo music that reminds me of Mexico’s Son Jarocho, to Latin Pop stars Richardo Montaner and Jose “El Puma” Rodriguez. In recent years people all over the world have been getting down to the alterna-house sounds of the legendary Los Amigos Invisibles. Venezuela also has a rich history of great Salsa artists such as personal favorites, Oscar D’Leon, Federico y Su Combo, Los Dementes and La Dimension Latina. One cannot deny the influence of Caribbean music on Venezuelans or for that matter, on Bituaya as a band. Bituaya continues the trend of recent Latin America artists perfecting the mixture of Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Reggae, Hip-Hop and Electronica effortlessly and without sounding contrived.

The six -piece group consists of two rappers, a singer/multi-instrumentalist, a percussionist, keyboardist and one of the smallest deejays I have ever seen, no joke. This guy had to stand on a box just to use the deejay table! From their first song they got everyone up and started dancing, as they played tracks from their ElectroCaribe release. Right away you can tell that these guys are well trained in music. These aren’t guys stumbling through genres; these guys have studied the various styles they play. It’s not shocking to find out that Bituaya are linked to many community-based art programs in Venezuela. Each song seemed to get better than the next. I especially like the mixture of  Joropo and Hip-Hop, with Aquiles Rengifo playing the cuarto underneath the Dub Reggae samples the solid flow of Miqueas “Piki” Figueroa. It’s something that I hoped that Son Jarocho groups would do more of, but it seems to be met with a lot of resistance. Bituaya made it seem so easy. In fact, every song came out so easily. Their Salsa was pure, the Merengue pulsed and the Cumbia/Reggae hybrids felt natural, all with that electro-sheen and Hip-Hop mentality that makes the music relevant. The night ended with a long jam, which included Raul Pacheco from the O.G. genre-bending band, Ozomatli, on guitar along with various Venezuelan nationals joining in on percussion and flute.

I had the daunting task of following the group with a deejay set. I tried my best but with the sound turned down due to noise complaints and an audience exhausted by Bituaya, I couldn’t do much besides play background music to the people trying to talk to the band. I would have to if I weren’t behind the turntables. I really enjoyed the band. Sometimes when I witness a band that is that good, I want to leave the show halfway through so nothing tarnishes the feeling that I am having at the moment. Because of the deejay set I was forced to stay and I’m glad I did because Bituaya did nothing tarnished that feeling. I guarantee just by word of mouth of the people that were at that show that Bituaya will play to a larger audience the next time around.

Wanna get their CD, ElectroCaribe? It is now available at Amoeba Hollywood for the low, low price of 7.98!

New Latin Releases For February 2010

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 9, 2010 12:56am | Post a Comment

Nacional Records
seems to be the only choice these days for any Latin Alternative music these days. While releases by artists such as Mexican Institute Of Sound, The Nortec Collective and the Zizek crew show the electronic future of the genre, Banda De Turistas reaches back to 60’s era Kinks for inspiration. Magical Radiophonic Heart contains fifteen songs of garage/psyche/pop bliss that would please the kids discovering a past that they never knew. Those kids that look retro yet weren’t born when The Dukes Of Stratosphere first came out, let alone The Kinks! Banda De Turistas is available on CD only.

Speaking of retro, Vampi Soul just released a couple of reissues. Spiteri, a band of Venezuelan brothers (Charles & Jorge) who moved to England, hung out with the likes of Traffic, The Animals and Osibisa and, in 1973, released a gem of a debut album. Spiteri, or as it was known in Venezuela, Disco De La Culebra (The Snake Record…because the band logo was a cobra), which was their only proper album. They were supposed to be Venezuela’s answer to Santana. But like the band’s original press release stated, “Santana is a rock band influenced by Latin music…Spiteri are Latin musicians influenced by rock.” Within the heavy 70’s rock and onslaught of percussion, one can hear Spiteri’s Venezuelan roots. As Jorge Spiteri put it, the band played “With The Beatles and Traffic in our minds and Joe Cuba in our hearts.” Sadly, due to immigration problems, most of the band started to leave England and the brothers were left with a line-up that consisted of them with English musicians. The band soon broke up but not before recording a killer funk version of The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” that sounds like something Mandrill would have done. This release is available on CD and limited edition vinyl.

The other reissue Vampi Soul released this week is from El Gran Fellove, a totally underrated Cuban singer that made most of his career in Mexico. Born and raised in Cuba, he was a contemporary of the likes of Cachao, Perez Prado, Celia Cruz and Chano Pozo. He was known for his scatting, a style that he later dubbed the “Chua Chua.” El Gran Fellove could have been much bigger if it wasn’t for his loyalties. He was asked to play in both Machito and Tito Puente’s groups while performing in New York in the late fifties, but turned them down because he didn’t want to cause friction with the singers that those groups already had. On top of that, he had a career in Mexico. There, he starred in a few movies and released recordings on the RCA label. Vampi Soul's collection, Mango Mangue, focuses on the work he did in the 60’s on RCA, including the song “El Jamaiquino,” a Ska/Mambo fusion that has been the desires of deejays for many years. This release is available on CD and LP.