Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band, “Expansions”
By Eli Schoop · July 26, 2021 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Somewhere off in Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffett was turned off and a DJ started bumping club hits by the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, Grace Jones, Slum Village, and Sylvester. The local ecosystem, in response, evolved in order to suit the new sounds. Pop culture and steelpan, together at last. Thus, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band was born—not out of Hamburg, Germany like the official record says—but grown deep under the Trinidadian roots, manifested in the waters of the Gulf of Paria.

Successful cross-cultural pollination like that on Expansions has to come from a love and knowledge of the music it is embracing, coupled with a playful spirit and a knowing wink at its audience. Call it kitsch, call it corny, but when the grooves are this good, it’s simply undeniable. Take the cover of Minnie Riperton’s “Les Fleurs” for example: her angelic vocals are transmogrified into a whimsical steelpan lead, yet it doesn’t feel gauche at all. And with both “Raise It Up” and “The Healer” featured, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band makes their J Dilla admiration evident with an ear for melody and percussive flair. The original compositions complement the covers beautifully, leaving the listener guessing at times what was cribbed from others and what came from the tropical minds on this record. So, bust out the Hawaiian shirts, make yourself a mai tai, and enjoy the intoxication of steelpan funk, aided by iconic hits.

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