October 21, 2008

90 Minutes of Global Chicano Rock 1970-1978

If you don’t like screaming guitars and lots of percussion, don’t go any further. Latin Soul, Jazz , Rock & Funk, a deft balance between percussive rhythms, instrumental passages and emotional (and romantic) singing in both Spanish and English. Carlos Santana has risen to superstardom with these ingredients. However, there are much more bands, who in the wake of the Chicano Power movement of the late sixties got inspired and started to playing this music. Obviously all over U.S.A. and Latin America, but also as far as the Netherlands (check out the Massada track).

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The Boogaloo Combo – Nappy Head (Epic 1972)
Eddie Benitez - Hey Girl (Vaya 1976)
El Chicano - Ron Con Con (Shadybrook 1976)
Toro – Ramona (Coco 1975)
Santana – Oye Como Va (Colombia 1970)
Seguida – Mambo Rock (Fania 1974)
Chango - Mira Pa’ca (ABC 1975)
Coke Escovedo – Te Amo Mas (Sound Triangle 1975)
Azteca – Azteca (Colombia 1972)
Sapo – Can’t Make It (Bell 1974)
Katunga - Bailando Despacito (RCA 1973)
Bwana – Motemba (Caytronics 1972)
Tierra – La Feria (20th Century 1974)
Antiques - Chauca (Sound Triangle? 1973)
Cesar 830 – Azucar (Flying Dutchman 1975)
Massada – Nena (Kendari 1978)
Malo – Oye Mamita (Warner Bros 1972)
Flash & The Dynamics – Electric Latin Soul (Tico 1971?)
Macondo – Cayuco (Atlantic 1972)
Black Sugar – Viajecito (Sono Radio 1970)
Harvey Averne - Cucara Macara (Heavy Duty 1971)

Starting off easy with The Boogaloo Combo from Brazil, doing War´s Nappy Head. Their 1972 album Con Muito Ritmo also features a killer version of James Brown’s Hot Pants Road. Guitarist Eddie Benitez was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Europe, and at the age of 10 his family moved to New York City. Eddie started his musical career back in 1976 when he was signed to Fania/CBS Records at the age of 14. His first release NightLife soared the Latin and jazz charts and he became a West Coast Hero of Latin Rock. Hey Girl was produced by Fania ‘s Louie Ramirez. El Chicano was one of the biggest names on the scene, only second to Santana. This tune is from their later period on an independent label, their albums from the early seventies are also very enjoyable. New York based Toro is next with Ramona, produced by Harvey Averne, who returns with his own band later in the mix. Released in 1972 on Harvey’s Coco label. The Master himself Santana kicks in next with a cover of Tito Puente’s Oye Como Va. Always difficult to chose from such a vast volume of groovy recordings he made in the sixties and seventies. Seguida were a 20 piece latin orchestra from New York, that stood out at the time for combining sythesizers and electric guitars alongside the traditional percussion and brass. Mambo Rock is a serious dancefloor mover, produced by Fania’s Larry Harlow. One of the few latin rock acts on the Fania label, which normally was dominated by salsa. From U.S. East Coast comes the six-piece band Chango. The God Chango is the representative of unbridled sexuality, and here they deliver Mira Pa’Ca in rather West Coast way. After Azteca disbanded, Thomas “Coke” Escovedo toured with Stevie Wonder and signed to Mercury for his formal solo debut: Coke appealed to Latin, jazz and soul listeners. However, with disappointing sales, Escovedo rejoined Santana in the late 70s and played with Herbie Hancock during his disco-funk phase. The earlier mentioned Azteca, was a large Latin Rock band (up to 25 people!), based in San Francisco and including former Santana percussionists such as the brothers Pete & Coke Escovedo (Sheila E. also belongs to the Escovedo family) and Victor Pantoja. The group also included the horn section of Tower of Power and Neil Schon (of Journey) on guitar. They released only two albums in the early seventies on Colombia before disbanding. Also from San Franciso, Sapo, with Richard Bean on vocals, they enjoyed some chart success with Can’t Make It. Katunga hail from Argentina, but recorded most of their tunes in Peru. Balando Despacio, recorded in 1973, is a fine example of South American fusion of funk and rock. Also from the South American continent are Bwana, a mysterious six piece outfit from Colombia with an insane psychedelic Latin Afro-Funk-Rock sound; heavy keyboard grooves, moaning guitars, tribal vocals and conga madness throughout the album. Just as the song featured here, Motemba, the album is filled with long break-filled tracks. Back to the Sunshine State, there The Antiques from Miami, recording for the Sound Triangle label the edgy latin rocker Chauca. Tierra were one of a number of bands formed out of the growing Chicano movement in California. The group featured mainly a Latin-Rock sound, but funk is added in the stormer La Feria. Bolivian pianist-bandleader Cesar Ascarrunz and his group recorded the terrific Cesar 830 album for the Flying Dutchman label. With help of legendary jazz producer Teo Macero (who also did Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Dave Brubeck's Take Five), he created an exceptional blend of Latino jazz rock fusion. Coming far from the typical Chicano environment, Massada, are an Indo-Dutch band (who sing in English and Spanish!) with a heavy Latin Fusion sound. The tune Nena is from their first and best album Astaganaga, released in 1978 on Kendari. Malo will always be known as the band of Carlos Santana’s brother Jorge, however, in the early seventies they released a series of quality albums, almost sounding fresher than Santana at that time. Oye mamita comes from their second album, simply called Dos, released in 1972. Back in the Big Apple, Flash and the Dynamics, (aka The Sons of El Barrio) combine latin funk & soul and boogaloo with tripped out psychedelic guitars. Electric Latin Soul is food for the brain, please listen to it. Macondo, from Southern California, took their name came from the novel 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sergio Mendes discovered and produced their 1972 album. The featured tune, Cayuco, again is a Tito Puente composition and you can hear again Victor Pantoja, former member of Santana and Azteca playing congas. Black Sugar is a funky 9-piece Latin-rock band from Peru, released two albums (both with the famous Coco Lagos on percussion). Influences from groups like Tower of Power, Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago mixed with latin funk flavor, here performing the epic Viajecito. And finally, 70’s latin funkrock frenzy from NY latin mastermind Harvey Averne. Cucara Macara holds lots of percussion, electric guitars and soulfull vocals, resulting in the tasty Nuyorican sound, arranged by Marty Sheller. That´s all folks……. Hasta la proxima.

October 12, 2008


Last week I was in for a nice surprise when my uncle called, telling me to come by and pick up his record collection. He didn't want anything in return for it, but I wasn't allowed to leave anything behind either. Obviously I didn't, which left me with an almost complete back catalogue of punk and new wave's finest. And while jiving to oldies but goodies like the Clash, the Jam, The Undertones and all them, I found a little pile of 7"s, tucked in between some records. One of them was by a group called "Les Sanganas," wrapped in a "not too promising" sleeve, you might know the kind: musicians in traditional clothing, masks, hats and drums all over the place...Very much like those terrible "world music" records that flooded the market in the mid 80's. Some further investigation of the sleeve learned that the two songs weren't recorded in some dusty studio in say..Lagos or Accra; nope, they were caught on disc in 1977 in a little studio in "funky" Breda, the Netherlands, by a producer named Tony Dirne (who recorded a lot of dutch groups in the 60's and 70's, some pop, some rock but most of them traditional dutch folk and easy listening.)

Yeah...I guess it's safe to say I wasn't expecting too much of this little gem when I finally put it on.
And then it blew me away...

Opener "Sibily Day" is nothing short of an afrobeat anthem pur sang, opening with- and superbly riding an ultra funky guitar riff, this song shreds all the way untill the very end. It's harbouring influences from blues, soul, funk, high life and gospel and it simply has got it all. It's more Orlando Julius than Fela Kuti, it's more proto type afrobeat if you'd like, but therefore more than welcome in my musical world. Fela was brilliant, but he's got way too many clones who simply copied his music without adding anything to it. Frankly: I'm tired of hearing the same song over and over and I just quit listening to newer afrobeat bands if their first few notes sounded anything like Fela. Orlando Julius was one the musicians that influenced Fela when he created his unique blend. Les Sangaras clearly were influenced by Orlando & Fela too, as they were also by James Brown and probably some others we never heard of, but this here, this is the kind of afrobeat I like hear. For all the reasons above.

B-side "Satata" follows the same formula as the A side, and it does so in the same effective way. It sounds like a traditional african folk song being funkified to the max. The whistle is silver, the break is golden, but I bet the song didn't make platinum at the time...

A search on the net didn't really give me any info about "Les Sanganas", unfortunately. Credits on the 7" are given to "Nganga, Joseph, Delvis" and "Nkeoua Ali M" but I couldn't find anything on them either. Too bad really...I guess I'm now the proud owner of a very obscure afrobeat treasure.

Well..here it is. Enjoy!

Sibily Day