various artists,
Rumba Flamenco
(Putumayo, 2002)

Putumayo puts out CDs that stay in my CD player longer than average. I would have a hard time picking my favorite compilation out of what I've heard from their expansive catalogue. But, if hard pressed, Rumba Flamenco would have to be right up near the top.

Rumba Flamenco is a collection of 13 energetic, passionate and upbeat tracks that you won't tire of listening to any time soon. According to the promotional material, "rumba flamenco (also known as gypsy rumba) is a blend of flamenco with Afro-Cuban rhythms." Think of "Bamboleo" by the Gipsy Kings and you'll have an idea of what is in store for you on this CD.

Speaking of the Gipsy Kings (who aren't on this album), Chico Bouchikhi -- one of the founding members of that band -- is represented with the song "Tengo Tengo (I Have, I Have)" by Chico & the Gypsies. This song, which is very reminiscent of the Gipsy Kings style, is about lost love. The singer laments about the pain in his soul while his love does what she wants.

The best song on the CD is "Isla Mujeres (Island of Women)" by Javier Ruibal. The exotic vocal chant at the beginning of the piece is what first grabbed my attention. The superb flamenco guitar playing as well as the outstanding Middle Eastern violin is what kept my attention. The song itself is about the singer being willing to become the most loyal slave of a beautiful stranger who must obviously be the queen from the Island of Women.

The only group with more than one track on the album is Ojos de Brujo (Eyes of the Warlock). The first selection from this Barcelona band is "Vacileo (A Good Time)." Mixing in a little funk and salsa with their flamenco, this piece features both male and female vocals. It is very catchy with its lively rhythms. Their second offering, "Tesoro (Treasure)," is a lot more subdued. Lead singer Dani "Monoloco" has a fairly distinctive voice that is hard not to recognize even if you aren't following along with the song listing to see who is playing. I will admit I don't understand the lyrics despite English translations in the liner notes. However, even with lines like "Your face is like a fish when you have fun" (???), the music is still engaging.

I could easily talk about each individual song as all of them are enjoyable to listen to. Instead, so this review doesn't get ridiculously long, let me simply mention the other artists, which include Mai'ta Vende Ca', Wafir, Peret, Ziroq, Eric Ferna'ndez, De Madera, the Gitano Family, Ricao and Energipsy. While most of the tracks include vocals, there are several instrumentals as well. There is not a bad tune on this CD!

The Putumayo compilation Rumba Flamenco is easily one of my favorite CDs released in 2002. This style of music simply has a way of hooking your soul. Flamenco, by itself, is such a sensual musical style. Add in the Afro-Cuban rhythms and it becomes that much more accessible to world music lovers. From my perspective, you can't go wrong buying this collection!

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 1 February 2003

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