Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leftovers (Horns): Latin Edition

During Horns week I didn’t have the problem of submitting material too late to get it posted; I simply had more material than I had time. This would have been my last post, if the week had been longer.

Latin America has a rich musical tradition. Here, musical ideas brought from Africa by slaves were allowed to remain more intact than in the United States, and also melded with the musical traditions of the Native Americans of the area. Add European instruments to the mix, and, eventually, you get Latin American music as we know it today. And you get some of the most exciting music for horns found anywhere in the world. It was only natural that musicians working in other genres would occasionally be drawn to Latin sounds, and would produce wonderful music of their own as a result. Here are three fine examples.

David Byrne: Make Believe Mambo


In my post on “Mr. Jones”, I mentioned that Talking Heads’ last album sounded quite a bit like the solo album that David Byrne was working on at the time, Rei Momo. Byrne was exploring Latin music, and he was able to assemble a band of the finest Latin musicians working in New York at the time. Each song on Rei Momo explores a different style of Latin music, with the song I have chosen obviously representing the mambo. Incidentally, Rei Momo is a Brazilian term that means “king of the carnival”.

Kirsty MacColl: Mambo de la Luna


Kirsty MacColl made a name for herself in left-of-center pop in the 1980’s. When she sought to broaden her sound, she made a trip to Cuba to learn about the music there. The result was her wonderful album Tropical Brainstorm. Sadly, this was to be her final work; she died in a boating accident not long after the album was released.

Raul Malo: Takes Two to Tango


When Raul Malo of the Mavericks began his solo career, he wanted to celebrate his heritage. Malo was originally from Cuba, and he wanted to bring this music to an English-speaking audience. This song features guest vocals by Shelby Lynne, whose music is also well worth seeking out.

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