Tag Archives: Latinidad

Chico Mann and Captain Planet: Night Visionaries

Chico Mann and Captain Planet

Chico Mann and Captain Planet by Azul Amarel

Known for their love of Latin funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean-inspired rhythms, LA-via-New York globetrotters Captain Planet (née Charlie B. Wilder) and Chico Mann (née  Marcos García) make quite the pair. Their first collaborative full-length, Night Visions, demonstrates their prowess at forging infectious tropical grooves to soundtrack nights full of endless possibilities. Buoyed by Wilder’s knack for funky, cross-continental beats, and García’s warm, lively croon, the duo crafts songs that could power dance floor activity into the wee hours, while also offering cunning socio-political commentary.

Take “Vamos A Batalla,” a glowing, multi-layered production that doubles as a call to action to create a better world. Over a backdrop of whirling pan flutes, the kuduro-inspired “Ya Te Toca” encourages all people to stand in solidarity with women. The xylophone-driven “Tumbo Paredes” argues for creativity as a way to resist oppression. “I try to be suggestive, rather than hitting you over the head with anything,” says Garcia, over the phone from his downtown LA studio. “I don’t feel like it has to be pedantic. It’s a matter of raising consciousness, and we can do that in a subtle way.”

We caught up with the pair, who enlightened us on what it means for them to embrace their personal night visions.

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ZZK Records: How a “Random Gringo” from Texas Helped Latin American Dance Music Take Over the World

ZZK artwork.

The post-colonial evolution of cumbe, a Guinean courtship dance, into the cumbia, a dance phenomenon known throughout the Latin American diaspora with varying regional inflections, is a fascinating story. Though cumbe surely came to Colombia’s shores with enslaved Africans shipped in by Spanish and English colonists, it wasn’t until clarinetist and big band leader Lucho Bermúdez folded its rhythms into his pop-jazz orchestra’s repertoire in the 1940s and 1950s that cumbe began to transform into the cumbia. It became wildly popular throughout Central and South America, mixing with indigenous Andean instrumentation and Afro-Cuban rhythms in Ecuador, taking on heavy psych-rock inflections in Peru. By the end of the 20th century, the cumbia had become a solid cornerstone of Latinx diaspora family gatherings and celebrations, able to bring every generation together. And in the early aughts, its supremely danceable rhythms fused with electronic dance beats to become a stylistic darling of club nights around the world.

This latter-day cumbia phenomenon was fueled in part by pioneering mixes created by artists signed with ZZK Records. The unlikely tale of the Buenos Aires-based label—named after a Slovenian philosopher-psychoanalyst and founded by a Texan—begins in the library and on the radio.

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Latin Alternative Music on Both Sides of the Border

The Chamanas
The Chamanas

The musical identity of Mexican-rooted Latinx musicians who live on both sides of the Rio Grande sometimes reflects a sentiment expressed by the often-quoted Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz. who stated in the late 1800’s: “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.”

Creating an identity as expressed in the music becomes a complicated process. as these artists sort out binational, bicultural lives with ties to all sides of a nearly 2000-mile border. These tensions play out musically in a myriad of choices: genre, language choices (Spanish? English? Spanglish? All of the above?), how to relate to the traditional musics of the homeland, battling tequila-and-taco-rife stereotypes, and above all, the movement and migration which is at the heart of their lives.

Today, the Latin alternative music being created by artists from both sides of the Rio Grande evidences that no wall built by anyone can stop the music from flowing freely – no visas or passports needed. Whether north, south or emerging right at the border, here’s a selection of Bandcamp artists whose music has been shaped in different spaces and places across the North American continent.

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