Category: Latin Music

Formed back in 2013, Mariachi Las Adelitas, which features members originally from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the UK, is Europe’s first all-female mariachi band. Created by its members to shatter stereotypes within a very male-dominated genre, the septet features a collection of fantastic instrumentalists and no less than three lead vocalists. Their repertoire includes the mariachi classics, as well as mariachi-styled arrangements of well-known and beloved classics — in English.

Since their formation, the band has developed a reputation for a being a hotly-demanded live act: they’ve serenaded Selma Hayek for her birthday. They’ve opened for Arcade Fire at London’s Earl Court. And they received standing ovation at the International Mariachi Women’s Festival where they shared the stage with the two-time Grammy Award winning Mariachi Divas. Adding to a growing profile. they’ve played the Victoria & Albert Museum and at The Roundhouse.

The septet’s debut single “El Toro Relajo” is a gorgeous rendition of a mariachi standard that was rearranged by the band’s founder Anita Adelita (a.k.a. Anna Csergo) and recorded during pandemic-related lockdowns. Of course, the song reveals a band that can really play — and a vocalist, who at points reminds me of Linda Rondstadt. i’ve mentioned this on Twitter: I adore mariachi. This particular single reminds me of the mariachis I used to see on the subway — in full uniform, too. And every single one of them was outstanding.

Live Footage: Juana Molina Performs “Eras” at NRML Festival

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Buenos Aires-born and based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actress and JOVM mainstay Juana Molina. Molina, who is the daughter of acclaimed of tango vocalist Horacio Molina and beloved actress Chunchuna Villafane, has led a rather interesting couple of lives. Much of her music career can be traced back to growing up in a intensely musical home: when she was five, her father taught her guitar and her mother introduced a young Molina to the family’s extensive record collection.

After the military coup of 1976, Molina’s family fled Argentina and lived in exile in Paris for several years. During her time in France, Molina’s musical tastes were vastly expanded by regularly listening to a number of French radio stations known for programs that spun music from all over the globe. Her family returned to Argentina, when she was in her early 20s. Much like countless young women across the globe, Molina was determined to be financially independent. Her initial aspirations were to earn some decent money for a few hours of work a day,. while allowing her enough time to write songs, record them and even play live shows.

Molina had a talent for imitations and impressions and while looking for a gig, she auditioned for a local TV program. She impressed the casting director with her talent, and she got hired on the spot. The Buenos Aires-born and-based JOVM mainstay quickly became one of Argentina’s most popular comedic actors. Within a few years of that early addiction, Molina starred in her own smash-hit show, Juana y sus hermanas, a Carol Burnett-like variety show, in which she created a number of beloved characters. (The show was so successful that it was syndicated across the region.) When Molina was pregnant, her show was on hiatus and with a lot of free time on her hands, she found herself reflecting on her life and her rapid rise to stardom. Despite the success she attained, Molina had the nagging thought that she really wasn’t doing what she really wanted to do. So she quit acting and started to focus on music.

Her decision to quit her successful and wildly popular show was one that many Argentines bitterly held against her for a number of years. True story here: her full-length debut 1996’s Rara was critically panned by a number of journalists, who openly resented her career change. Initially fans of Juana y sus hermanas would show up to her gigs, expecting her to pay homage to the show but they couldn’t quite understand her new “folk singer character” that sung very strange songs without obvious jokes. Feeling dejected and misunderstood by the criticism and demands on her, but still wanting to continue with music, Molina relocated to Los Angeles. Not only was her work much better received, while in L.A., she began experimenting and familiarizing herself with electronics and electronic sounds. 2002’s Tres Cosas was the Argentine artist’s international breakthrough: the album was championed by David Byrne, Will Oldham, and others and landed on The New York Times‘ Top Ten Records list.

2017’s Halo continued Molina’s long-held reputation for restless experimentation — and for being one of South America’s most innovative and uncompromising artists. But interestingly enough, last year’s Forfun EP was an exuberant and decided sonic change in direction, inspired by desperate necessity: the JOVM mainstay and her backing band were forced to play a set at a major festival without most of their electronic gear — because their airline lost their luggage. The EP’s material is centered around a wild, punk rock-like ethos and spirit.

Much like countless artists around the world, Molina was actually in the middle of a tour, playing festival dates when the pandemic stopped everything in its tracks. Interestingly enough, one of Molina’s last tour dates was festival set at Mexico’s NRML Festival. That set, which featured rearranged and re-imagined renditions of material off Halo, Wed 21, Un día and Forfun EP was recorded — and will be released as a live album ANRML, which Crammed Discs will put out on October 23, 2020.

Obviously, the live album will serve as a powerful reminder of what life was before the pandemic — but there’s also the hope of what will come out on the other side. We must continue to have hope that we’ll be able to enjoy each other like we once were; that we’ll be able to go to concerts to sing, dance, sweat and escape our worlds for a little bit; that we’ll have the bliss and freedom of strobe light and dance floors; of welcoming smiles from locals when you’re a stranger in a strange land; of new love and of so much more. We must continue to have hope that on the other side of this, we’ll make a better world for all of us.

The live album’s first single is a kicking and stomping version of one of my favorite Juana Molina songs “Eras.” And from the live recording, you can envision yourself dancing and howling with joy with a bunch of newfound friends. There are few things in our morally bankrupt world as transcendent as seeing someone’s face light up when their favorite artist in the entire universe plays their favorite song. I miss that in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. One day, I hope. One day.

New Video: Meridian Brothers Release a Dystopian Yet Hopeful New Single

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written quite a bit about Bogota, Colombia-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, Eblis Alvarez, who’s perhaps better known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed, forward-thinking cumbia act Meridian Brothers. Now, as you may recall, Meridian Brothers newest album Cumbia Siglo XXI is salted for an August 21, 2020 release through Bongo Joe Records — and the album, which is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the act’s critically applauded (and largely acoustic) ¿Dónde estás María? continues the Colombian artist’s long-held reputation for restlessly pushing his sound and approach in new and radical directions whenever possible. 

Largely inspired by Cumbia Siglo XX’s experimentation with traditional cumbia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which led to a completely new form of the genre, Cumbia Siglo XXI sees Alvarez using a multitude of guitars, synths, algorithmic software, vintage drum machines and whatever tech that the acclaimed Colombian artist could get his hands on. The end result is material that seemingly draws from Kraftwerk, while blending EDM “sidechain” techniques and traditional cumbia.

I’ve written about two album singles so far: “Puya del Empressario,” an infectious yet let field take on cumbia that sounded a bit like like The Man Machine-era Kraftwerk meets JOVM mainstay El Dusty with a mischievous sense of adventurousness — and “Los Golpeadores de la cumbia,” a mischievous synthesis of chip tune, electro pop and cumbia that came from the Island of Misfit Toys. The album’s latest single  “Cumbia de la fuente,” is a yearning and plaintive track centered around strummed acoustic guitar, glitchy synths and glitchier drum machines and Alvarez’s aching vocal delivery.  And while sounding as though it came from some incredibly dystopian future — one just as hellish as our own — the song conveys a sense of hope for something beyond this. 

“‘Cumbia de la fuente’ is a stopping point of the whole theme of the record, both in lyrics and in sound concept,” Meridian Brothers’ Alvarez says in press notes. “rThe song is a prayer and an amulet, a search for something that modern human beings are not used to do, due to mechanisation and modern industrial societies. A scream to the nowhere, looking for some answer, which is not given by scientific fetichism nor the political argument, nor the philosophic reason.”

The recently released video for “Cumbia de la fuente” features some trippy and brightly colored drawings that seem inspired by an intense hallucinogenic trip. 

New Video: Swedish Nu-Cumbia act Cumbiasound Releases an Adorable Visual for “Cumbia Alta Vida”

Daniell Fridell is a Swedish-based multi-instrumentalist and producer with a deep background in jazz, funk, soul and Balkan music, who spent a decade residing in Denmark. Throughout his career, he has played and produced material for albums, commercials, TV and for the theater — and as a result of his various work, Fridell has managed to tour across the European Union, Africa and the States.  

His latest project, Cumbiasound finds the Swedish multi-instrumentalist crafting compositions that draw from Colombian cumbia and Peruvian chicha with elements of reggae, Balkan folk, Afrobeat, soul and jazz among others. Interestingly, the project can its origins back to 2010 when Fridell first heard cumbia. “2010 I heard Cumbia the first time while standing outside of a supermarket eating ice cream,” Fridell explains in press notes. “It was blazing hot and all of a sudden this music came out of the speakers. ‘What’s that?’ I asked and the rest is history. A true love affair.”

Cumbiasound’s debut EP Vol. 1: Instrumentales sees Fridell collaborating with longtime friend and colleague Erik Axelsson who contributes trombone and euphonium to the mix. The EP’s latest single “Cumbia Alta Vida” is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes, looping guitar and shuffling, Latin polyrhythm — and while sounding as though it were recorded sometime between 1962-1965, the song is a joyous and much-needed bit of escape. 

Speaking of escapism: the recently released video by Cesar A. Ortiz, the recently released video stars two adorable rugrats dancing to the song in their backyard and messing around with some instruments at home. We see the youngest kid, a tow-headed boy eating arepas — because of course. Life seems so much simpler in their eyes doesn’t it? 

New Audio: Meridian Brothers Release a Chiptune Inspired Take on Cumbia

Eblis Alvarez is a Bogota, Colombia-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and forward-thinking recording project Meridian Brothers.  Alvarez’s forthcoming Meridian Brothers album  Cumbia Siglo XXI is slated for an August 21, 2020 release through Bongo Joe Records — and the album, which is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the act’s critically applauded (largely  acoustic) ¿Dónde estás María? continues the Colombian artist’s long-held reputation for relentlessly pushing his sound and approach in new and radical directions. 

Inspired by Cumbia Siglo XX’s experimentation with traditional cumbia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which led to a completely new form of the genre, Cumbia Siglo XXI sees Alvarez using a multitude of guitars, synths, algorithmic software, vintage drum machines and whatever tech that the acclaimed Colombian artist could get his hands on. And while the album’s material sonically seemingly to draw a bit from Kraftwerk, the album reportedly is a sonic blend of EDM “sidechain” techniques and traditional cumbia.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Cumbia Siglo XXI‘s first single “Puya del Empressario,” an infectious yet let field take on cumbia that sounded a bit like like eThe Man Machine-era Kraftwerk meets JOVM mainstay El Dusty — with a mischievous sense of adventurousness.  “Los Golpeadores de la cumbia,” Cumbia Siglo XXI’s latest single is a mischievous synthesis of chip-tune, electro pop and cumbia that sounds like came straight from the Island of Misfit Toys. 

The recently released Bibiana Rojas-edited video for “Los Golpeadores de la cumbia” features a split screen — the left-hand side of the screen we see a man, text people, receive a phone call and take selfies. On the right-hand side, we see some surreal drawings by Mateo Rivano. 

New Audio: Meridian Brothers’ Forward-Thinking and Adventurous Take on Cumbia

Eblis Alvarez is a Bogota, Colombia-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and forward-thinking solo project Meridian Brothers. The act’s forthcoming album Cumbia Siglo XXI is slated for an August 21, 2020 release through Bongo Joe Records — and the album, which is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the act’s critically applauded (largely  acoustic) ¿Dónde estás María? furthers the act’s long-held reputation for relentlessly pushing their sound and approach in new and radical directions.

Inspired by Cumbia Siglo XX’s experimentation with traditional cumbia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which led to a completely new form of the genre, Cumbia Siglo XXI sees the act employing a use of amultitude of guitars, synths, algorithmic software, vintage drum machines and other tech that Alvarez could get his hands on. Drawing a bit from Kraftwerk, the album reportedly is a sonic blend of EDM “sidechain” techniques and traditional cumbia.

“Puya del Empreasirio,” Cumbia Siglo XXI’s first single is centered around layers of fuzzy analog synths, off-kilter and propulsive rhythms, snatches of vocals is an hypnotic, infectious and completely left field take on cumbia that kind of sounds like The Man Machine-era Kraftwerk meets JOVM mainstay El Dusty — but with a mischievous sense of adventurousness. “Cumbia disintegrated into drum machines. AIs are fucking idiots, Puya rides the machine,” Alvarez says of the track.