various artists,
(Putumayo, 2001)

I always get a little excited when I pick up a new Putumayo release. When it comes to world music, no other recording company I can think of has quite the knack at consistently picking out superb selections for their compilation CDs. Without fail, Putumayo has created yet another must-have CD with Colombia.

I recently reviewed The Rough Guide to the Cuban Music Story. If you enjoyed that CD, I think you will find Colombia much to your liking. As the promotional material states, "fans of the straight-to-the-bone grooves of Cuban music will find the music of Colombia equally entrancing and soulful."

The music presented here consists primarily of danceable selections, most of which have male singers although there are some female-led vocals. While I do not know the difference between the cumbia, porro, vallenato or salsa genres, I do lament that I don't have the Latin gene that allows one to move as if their hips were not attached to the rest of the body. This music is fun. This music is full of life. This music makes you lose control to the fast-paced rhythms.

My favorite piece on the CD is "El Temporal (The Storm)" performed by Tulio Zuloaga. This selection is actually "an old Puerto Rican plena that warns of the coming of the storm," according to the liner notes. This song, in the vallenato style, has a fast, upbeat rhythm. I am reminded of a Puerto Rican wedding I recently attended where I was out-danced by a gentleman at least 50 years my senior. It's that hip thing again....

Another great tune is "El Ciclon (The Cyclone)," a cumbia, which compares the destruction of a cyclone to the destructiveness of a woman in a relationship. This piece is performed by La Sonora Dinamita, a popular Latin group that has been around for decades. For a song about such a volatile subject, I find "El Ciclon" to be surprisingly bouncy and festive. My lack of Spanish surely helps in that regards.

Unlike the aforementioned selections, "Montanerisimo" by Los 50 de Joselito is not weather-related. In this song, you can definitely hear the influence of the Andes. In fact, this piece is dedicated to two important cities in the Andes. Colombia is a country with quite a variety of musical styles to showcase!

Nine more songs round out this collection that Putumayo calls Colombia. Artists include Los Warahuaco, Gabriel Romero y su Orquesta, Joe Arroyo, Lucho Bermudez, Grupo Bahia, Toto la Momposina, Fruko y sus Tesos, Orquesta de Edmundo Arias and the Latin Brothers. The CD also contains a 32-page insert that is written in both Spanish and English. World music lovers should be very happy with this find.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 12 January 2002

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