03 July 2006

Monday's mp3: Ska Cubano's Caribbean Stew

Ska Cubano: Ay Caramba! (CD Review)
Cumbancha Records

Ska Cubano has been a distant blip on my radar for some time, a song heard on the internet here, another on a compilation there. Only with the recent album Ay Caramba! does the shape of this incoming musical missile become clear. No high-arcing ICBM, this album is a low-flying projectile of roots fun.

Ay Caramba! (official release date 11 July) will have musicians of all kinds slapping their foreheads and wondering why they didn't come up with what seems a natural mix: ska horns & vocals, Cuban mambo beats, and calypso storytelling. Each of the 14 tracks bring different proportions of these ingredients, including a cover of the innuendo-laden classic "Big Bamboo" and a re-imagining of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)."

The group is a collaboration between South London ska singer Natty Bo, British entrepreneur Peter Scott, and Cuban musician/singer Beny Billy (born Juan Manuel Villy), along with a slew of London-based Cuban and Jamaican musicians. Of particular note is the gusty playing of Japanese saxophonist Megumi Mesaku.

Ska Cubano has been featured on The World's Global Hit, and seems poised to make cross-genre inroads into mainstream musical consciousness.

By the way, Cumbancha is the brainchild of Putumayo's Jacob Edgar, who launched the label to focus more on individual artists. "We used to say at Putumayo that doing compilations was like dating," says Edgar," and signing artists was like getting married. After years of flirting with some of my favorite artists, it's nice to finally make some commitments and settle down."

This song talks about a longing for the African homeland: "Soul of distant Africa / Fills my chest with fire / And the poor child of the slave / Always longs for the palm trees / Of the primitive jungle / Of gods of mystery and war/ Ifa, Ochun, Obatala, for Chango and Yemaya

[mp3] Ska Cubano: "Tabu"
from Ay Caramba! | buy CD | buy mp3s
Three unreleased tracks from the Ay Caramba! recording sessions are available as mp3s at skacubano.spintheglobemusic.net

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