Friday, September 15, 2006

Three shrinking violets: Amaray, Tanja and El Indio.


So what else do you, when you've had two kick-arse holidays in one year, which saw you living a dream of non-stop timba and dancing, but you've returned to a place where neither of those things is set to be a regular feature, and you have a huge debt which prevents you from skipping off to, say, Havana? Well, you spend most of your time talking with your timba-nerd friends online. And the rest, watching timba videos ...

I finally got my paws on Knock Out: Bamboleo v Manolito. It's not a DVD with a lot of suspense - you can easily guess who wins this bout (hint: it ain't Bamboleo), and despite Tanja's braying, it's worth it for the Trabuco stuff alone. It's nicely shot - it has great lighting and staging, and all my boys look gorgeous, and are joined by the other Riverón, Roberto - one of Havana's most popular session bass players (and brother, of course, to Trabuco drummer Roícel) - filling the gap between the untimely death of Trabuco stalwart Eduardo Mora and the arrival of his replacement, the lovely Roberto El Chino. Riverón the elder isn't exactly the hippest looking dude in the world (he could get a few tips on how to be a spunkrat from that brother of his), but he's a nice player (as his impressive CV attests).
I'm not a musician, and don't usually notice the nuances of various performances/musos - unless a singer or the metales are obviously out of tune (heard a lot of that in Havana) - but it's interesting how different Trabuco sound on this live recording and it appears to be largely due to Riverón the other (unless different arrangements were made, then abandoned before I saw them a squillion times in Havana and Italy). The sound is a lot fatter, a lot funkier, and a lot less like the Trabuco I'm used to. I like it. But it is very different. One of the songs which really benefits from this transformation is No te pases (sometimes called Tu puedes llegar) - a limp pop-reggaeton pastiche when it first appeared on the Locos Por Mi Habana album, here it becomes a solid tropical rock-funk number. Not very Manolito, but very, very good.


Trabuco's maestro,with Roberto Riverón behind him.

The sound overall is great, and the accompanying CD is a nice bonus. It has all the songs from the DVD (to save you ripping an audio version - how thoughtful) as well as a couple of others, including Comunicate. I'm very grateful to have some good quality Trabauco en vivo material: almost all the songs have evolved since they were recorded, and now have great mambos and coros which weren't on the original CDs.
(There is a clip of Se Rompieron Los Termómetros here.)

I also bought Klimax, the best Cuban music. It has some great cameos (Los que Son Son's Mandy, on Te confunde ser esa mujer, Vannia on Me sube la fiebre) and some I could do without (Charanga Habanera's Leonid, on Mi estrella), and leaves me asking the question: why the fuck isn't Calunga there knocking us all dead with Juego de Manos or Aún Así?


"Pupy, qué linda toca Pupy." With Klimax's Joel and Juan Carlos and Mandy.

Despite both being basically performance DVDs, the two are very different: the Knock Out DVD is pretty much just two timba bands going at it live. The Klimax DVD, on the other hand, has Chucho Valdés banging out some jazz and lots of chat from Piloto about the group, his composer father and Cuban music in general, as well as interviews with the likes of Juan Formell, Pupy and Valdés. The Knock Out video has a few talking heads too (including Adalberto Alvarez and Haila), but it's a much less academic affair - more for the hips (and ears and eyes); less for the brain. The Klimax DVD is probably a more-rounded affair musically, what with the jazz tunes and such (the other Riverón - who used to be a member of Klimax - turns up here too, having a bit of a jam with another Klimax alumno Marco Crego), but it's a bit hit-and-miss for me. But maybe it's because I think Piloto's music is a bit hit-and-miss these days. I don't know. Klimax have always perplexed and frustrated me: they have moments of absolute perfection. And moments of utter cacophony. And on this DVD, moments that just leave me cold. Jazz, schmazz. Dame timba!


El maestro de Klimax, Piloto.

And speaking of perfection (nice segue, eh?), I was tooling around on youtube, as I sometimes do, and I found this Bamboleo video - yes , yes, I know I just dismissed them in less than a phrase in a paragraph above, but this has Vannia and Yordamis, and it's Yo no me parezco a nadie - one of my all-time favourite songs. It's from a DVD called Cubamania, which also features tracks by Klimax, Angel Bonne and Bamboleo are Tumbao Havana, La Farandula and La Barriada.

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