Daniell Fridell is a multi-instrumentalist and producer with a deep background in jazz, funk, soul and Balkan music. Throughout his lengthy professional career, Fridell has played and produced material for albums, commercials, TV and theater while residing in Denmark and Sweden. As a result of his work, the currently Sweden-based Fridell has toured across the European Union, Africa and the US.
Fridell’s latest project Cumbiasound draws from Colombian cumbia and Peruvian chic with elements of reggae, Balkan folk, Afrobeat, sou and jazz added to the mix. Cumbiasound can trace its origins back to 2010 when Fridell was first introduced to 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.”
Earlier this year, Fridell released his Cumbiasound debut, Vol. 1: Instrumentales, a critically applauded effort that found the Swedish-based multi-instrumentalist and producer collaborating with Erik Axelsson (trombone, euphonium) that received attention across the blogosphere for being a blissful bit of escapism — and for being an oddity in our increasingly globalized world. South American cumbia convincingly done by Swedes and other Scandinavians? Uh, why not?
Fridell caps off a successful year with his sophomore Cumbiasound EP, Cosas del Universo. The EP, which sees Fridell collaborating with vocalists Boogie Castillo, Lis Flores Varela and José Pereelanga and frequent collaborator Erik Axellsson continues where its predecessor started off — but while digging deeper into several different styles of cumbia paired with 70s Palenque rhythms.
Interestingly, many of the collaborations on the five song EP can be traced back a couple of decades before: Fridell first met Chilean-born, Swedish-based emcee and vocalist Boogie Castillo in the mid-90s, when Castillo was a member of Helsingborg, Sweden-based hip-hop act DOSS. They managed to meet again in 2012 and they collaborated on a couple of early Cumbiasound tracks, including Fridell’s Cumbiasound debut “Calzones Largos,” which was released on the net label Caballito. Considering it a great time to get together to finish old ideas and create new music, Fridelll and Castillo wanted some additional flavor on the EP, so they recruited Lis Flores Varela to contribute her vocals.
Simultaneously, Fridell had been working with Congolese vocalist José Pereelanga on a number of different occasions and invited the Congolese vocalist to broaden the effort’s overall sound. Fridell and his collaborators are hoping that with Cosas del Universo, they have crafted material that can appeal to a broad audience — while adding a Scandinavian twist.
“Maz Paz,” Cosas del Universo’s first single is a breezy yet dance floor friendly anthem centered around shuffling, Latin polyrhythms, a looping and fluttering flute line, an Afrobeat-inspired guitar line, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. Boogie Castillo and Lis Flores Varela contribute impressive and inspired turns rhyming and singing to the mix. “Maz Paz” finds the act crafting an infectious and funky bit of cumbia with a globalist and genre-defying bent.
Over the past few years, Corpus Christi, TX-born and-based Latin Grammy-nominated producer, DJ, songwriter, arranger and electronic music artist and JOVM mainstay El Dusty has simultaneously been dubbed the inventor of cumbia electronica and a pioneer of nu cumbia, a swaggering, genre-defying, club friendly blend of elements of hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, house music and cumbia inspired by its creator’s experiences growing up near the US-Mexico border.
Since the release of the Corpus Christi-born and-based JOVM mainstays full-length debut, 2018’s Cumbia City, El Dusty has been hard at work, producing and releasing material through his own label Americano Label including his popular Americano Beat Tape Vol. 1 and a boatload of highly praised one-off collaborations.
The JOVM mainstay’s latest single “Pinche Cumbia” continues a remarkably prolific run of swaggerin party anthems — but in the case of the new single, it’s part hip-hop freestyle cypher in the cafeteria between an All-Star collection of fellow Latin Grammy-nominated cumbia legends including Locos Por Juanas’ Itawe, Morenito De Fuego, Ozomatli, El Gran Silenco’s Campa Valdez and Los Kumbia Kings’ DJ Kane paired with tweeter and woofer rocking 808s, a rousing hook and hypnotic cumbia instrumentation, including an enormous brass section.
“It is a mission to take the Cumbia culture to people who haven’t crossed paths with it,” El Dusty says in press notes. “We want you to dance, eat ad dream Cumbia even if you don’t know what it means.”
Morenito De Fuego explains the title by saying, “We decided to call it “Pinche Cumbia” because you can call something ‘Pinche’ in a derogatory way or by adding ‘Pinche’ you can empower whatever you’re talking about, in this case CUMBIA. Basically what we’re saying is whether you like it or not, you’re gonna dance to it at the club or at your cousin’s quinceañera!”
The recently released video is fitting for our times — a Zoom based party with all the artists, rocking the fuck out.
Formed back in 2013, Mariachi Las Adelitas, features members originally from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the UK – and 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. (That’s right, three!) Their repertoire includes the mariachi classics, as well as mariachi-styled arrangements of well-known and beloved classics — in English.
Earlier this month, I wrote about the sepet’s debut single “El Toro Relajo.” Rearranged by the band’s founder Anita Adelita (a.k.a. Anna Csergo) and recorded during pandemic-related lockdowns, the gorgeous Mariachi Las Adelitas rendition reveals a super talented band that can really play – and a vocalist, who reminds me at points of a young Linda Rondstadt. Shortly, after the official release of the single, the members of Mariachis Las Adelitas played a streamed set at this year’s virtual International Women’s Mariachi Festival, where the official video for “El Toro Relajo” saw its world premiere.
The DIY video was filmed and edited during pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. And as a result, we see the individual band members performing – in full regalia – in their backyards, in their home studio set ups, in a local church or on the street. And there’s an adorable appearance by Csergo’s kids, also in full regalia dancing and stomping around in her backyard. It’s a homey family affair.
I recently conducted an emailed Q&A with Mariachi Las Adelitas’ founder Anita Adelita (a.k.a. Anna Csergo) – and we discussed women in mariachi, her and the band’s inspirations and aims, their recent International Women’s Mariachi Festival performance, their new video and more. Check out the video and the intenrview below.
WRH: I’ve mentioned this on Twitter: I happen to adore mariachi. Way before the pandemic, you’d occasionally come across a mariachi – in the full uniform, too! – on the subway. Every single one of them would be amazing, I can think of maybe one or two all-female mariachi groups here in the States/North America. Your group, Mariachi Las Adelitas is currently Europe’s only all-women mariachi act. So how rare is it to come across a female mariachi? And why is that the case?
Anna Csergo: Although now enjoying growth and recognition, female Mariachi bands are rare even in Mexico and the U.S, let alone in Europe.
Mariachi is traditionally a very male dominated genre, perhaps it doesn’t help in a society where women are traditionally the main caregivers to children, that gigs are often last minute, late at night, at dawn, and sometimes with a very drunk clientele!
Female mariachi bands are not a new phenomenon however. The original Mariachi Las Adelitas was formed in Mexico in 1954.
WRH: How did you get into mariachi?
AC: I was already intrigued by mariachi firstly due to the prominent violin sections and then by all of the rhythmic elements slotting together, and the power in the vocals and the trumpets! So, when I saw an advertisement in a local paper, I replied straight away . . . the rest is history!
WRH: What is the inspiration behind Mariachi Las Adelitas? What do you and the other women in the group hope to achieve?
AC: The warrior women of the Mexican revolution, known as the ‘Adelitas’ or ‘Soldaderas‘ are our greatest inspiration. These women, despite their caring duties, took to arms in the frontline alongside the men, and were pivotal in revolution’s success.
The black and white photos of these women holding a rifle in one hand and a baby in the other are mind-blowing.
We hope to empower and inspire women from all nationalities, and young men too, to know that anything is achievable.
Being a woman or a mother or coming from any background doesn’t have to limit your expectations or the possibilities available to you as a professional.
WRH: The band does a mix of the mariachi standards along with mariachi renditions of beloved and familiar classics in English. How do you pick the songs in your repertoire? How do you go about rearranging a song?
AC: We pick songs that strike a chord with us. It’s not difficult in a genre which easily stirs up the whole spectrum of emotions and has so many amazing rhythms to choose from.
The most important thing for us is to ensure that we are respectful and faithful to the genre in our arrangements.
We didn’t want to do straight covers of English songs with only our instruments and mariachi suits making the difference. We wanted to do everything to remain faithful to traditional mariachi style even when covering non-mariachi songs. I think that is a unique feature of our band.
WRH: The band features women from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Italy and the UK. With pandemic-related lockdowns affecting everything and everyone, how have you and your bandmates managed to remain creative. How has your creative process changed as a result?
AC: It was deflating to suddenly lose all of our work and suddenly not see one- another anymore. When a musician stops practising his or her art something falls apart inside. We are hugely grateful to Arts La’Olam organisation who secured funding for us from Arts Council England so that the musicians could be paid a fee for their recordings. Although initially it was just going to be ‘amateur’ lockdown videos, the purchase of some very basic recording equipment (mic and soundcard) made it possible to create quality audio recordings from our homes on a budget. We are very pleased with the results and are now inspired to keep going!
WRH: How was it like to record remotely?
AC: It was a challenge since it was very hard to explain exactly the feel I was looking for and then make revisions after the musicians had sent in their recordings.
It will definitely be easier to be with the musicians when recordings are made in future. Here’s hoping Covid19 conditions allow!
WRH: How do you and your bandmates balance being a mother with professional and creative work?
AC: It is certainly not easy! I fell pregnant with my triplets soon after forming the band and had their baby brother within less than 2 years. For the first few years it really was about survival for the band as well as for the children! To be honest, I really don’t understand how we managed it, we literally scraped through somehow!
Now the children are a little older we try whenever possible to rehearse during the school or nursery day, but there are many times when they are with us for rehearsals and even performances. Luckily, they have learnt to love and respect what we do, often pulling out their little instruments and joining in with the noisemaking or coming up onto the stage and dancing!
WRH: You recently participated in the International Mariachi Women’s Festival for the second time. How did that go for the band?
AC: It’s an absolute honour for us to be slotted between Jose Hernandez from Sol de Mexico‘s Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles and twice Grammy award-winning Mariachi Divas! We are just a drop in the ocean and have been self-taught through listening to recordings and watching YouTube, so to have our music featured in between these two institutions is surreal! Thanks to the organiser of the festival and founder of the Mariachi Women’s foundation Dr. Leonor Xochitl Perez for coming to London, finding us and believing in us!
WRH: This year’s International Mariachi Women’s Festival also featured the premiere of the video for “El Toro Relajo.” The video was also shot and edited remotely. The video features your four children dressed up in Mexican outfits and dancing in your garden. it’s adorable. How did the video treatment come about? How was the video received?
AC: As with the audio, the video was shot in or around our own homes during lockdown. Schools were shut and our children were with us 24/7. Mine wanted to join in so instead of resisting I had them dress up in their Mexican outfits and dance around in the garden. A short clip of the video has been available for a few days on Facebook and has already had a crazy number of views, let’s hope the audio and full video do just as well!
WRH: What’s next for the band?
AC: Our next step is definitely to continue the process and complete our first album. In pre-pandemic times we were so busy with gigs and special requests and our own families that recording has always taken a back seat. So, we are using the pandemic as an opportunity to focus on creating and recording.
Soema Montenegro is a Buenos Aires-based experimental singer/songwriter. Arguably one of South America’s most unique artists, Montenegro’s work mixes the sounds and images of the jungle and mountains with her original poetry, which is primarily centered around a theatrical and emotional narrative — and transports listeners to her native Argentina.
Tremor — Leonardo Martinelli, Geraldo Farez and Camilo Carabajal — is an acclaimed South American trio that meshes electronic production and sound manipulation with traditional folkloric instrumentation and influences. Featuring rhythms and sounds known across the region, the trio’s sound fits component parts of varying traditions together in a way that crosses and defies genre-borders.
Medelin, Colombia-based experimental. electronic music artist, producer and guitarist Juan Esteban Herrera is the creative mastermind of Ruido Selecto, an electronic music project that’s largely influenced by Jamaican and tropical rhythms, and other black music.
Tremor and Soema Montenegro collaborated together on “Cuando Oigo Sonar la Caja,” which appeared on a tribute album to Argentine singer/songwriter Leda Valladares, El Caimon de Leda (Un Tributo a Leda Valladares). Centered around undulating and atmospheric synths, traditional indigenous percussion, twinkling guitar, and flute paired with thumping beats and Montenegro’s sing-song vocals, the track is a brooding synthesis of the ancient and the modern.
Ruido Selecto’s remix is a subtle, dubby remix, featuring finger-snapped percussion, wobbling low end while retaining most of the dreamy and brooding instrumentation and Montengro’s vocals. The end result is a remix that feels like a slow-burning psychedelic trip.
Magalí Sare is a rising 23 year-old, Vallès, Spain-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Growing up in a family of musicians, Sare learned how to play piano, flute and percussion at an early age. Back in 2013, the Vallès-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, enrolled at the Superior Conservatory of the Liceu, where she studied jazz.
Since graduating, Sare quickly developed a unique sound and approach that features elements of jazz, classical music, pop, alt-pop and experimental music with lyrics written and sung in her native Catalan and English. She’s also been rather busy: Sare regularly performs with a quarter that features Marta Pons (cello), Vic Moliner (double bass) and Arnau Figueres (percussion) and with a duo featuring a dear friend, who has accompanied her since the beginning. Over the past year, she’s been further honing a genre-fluid sound:
She collaborated with Sebastiaà Gris on A Boy and a Girl, an album that found the duo reworking classical and folk tunes in a way that incorporated electronics. The album was nominated for Best World Music album on the World Music Charts Europe (WMCE).
Sare contributed her vocals to Clara Peya’s Estomac.
The Catalan-born artist was nominated for an Emerging Artist Award by the Catalan Music Academy and Best New Artist at the ARC Awards.
Magalí Sara was nominated for the first International Award of Suns Europe Festival, which she won.
She also toured with with Quartet Mèlt, an act that won TV3’s Oh happy day’s third season.
Sare’s latest single “Beber de ti” is a slow-burning track and atmospheric featuring twinkling piano, stuttering trap beats, the rising Catalan artist’s ethereal and plaintive vocals, shimmering synth arpeggios and an enormous hook. Sonically, the track will further establish her sound as it’s a slickly produced mesh of classical music, electro pop and trap, centered around earnest songwriting. “Stagnant water rots. To be clean and transparent it needs to flow. The same goes for feelings; Communicating fully is not easy at all,” Sare explains. “Sometimes opening up as people can be painful, but it is something that frees us. Showing fears, letting out crying, as well as empathizing and giving thanks when appropriate, are things that make human relationships flow.”
The recently released and intimately shot video follows a couple, who struggle to truly connect with each other — but when they follow the philosophy of the song, they find themselves much closer, and much more at peace with each other.
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.
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.
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.
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.