Victor Manuelle – Que Suenen Los Tambores

Inspired by Gilberto Santa Rosa, Puerto Rican salsa singer Victor Manuelle follows his own course with the release of his 16th studio album, Que Suenen Los Tambores. It is an extraordinary sharp record, arguably one if not the best release in his musical career so far. Three singles have been released ahead of the album launch, of which the title-song had set the highest anticipation.

Victor Manuelle (El Sonero de la Juventud) is known for his salsa romantica, but Que Suenen Los Tambores has a lot of variety in terms of salsa styles and rhythms. Not a single song is inferior to the others. From the vallenato accordion in the intro of Agua Bendita, the salsa dura of Sal A Bailar, the classic salsa composition Isabela, to the breezy and romantic composition of La Vida Perfection, this is a very vibrant album that must be part of your latin CD collection.

Morgan Heritage – Strictly Roots

The 10th album of Morgan Heritage – also known as the Royal Family of Reggae – has been released independent of VP Records, on the new family owned record label CTBC Music Group. Despite the album title, the quintet (Peetah, Gramps, Una, Mr. Mojo and Lukes) actually mixes various genres into their 13-track album. Like all Morgan Heritage albums, Strictly Roots is characterized by excellent instrumentation and vocals.

2015.04.24 Morgan Heritage - Strictly Roots 2

Featuring artists Chronixx, Jemere Morgan, J Boog, J Mersa Marley and Shaggy make a fair contribution to the diversified album. Songs like Strictly Roots, Rise and Fall and Wanna Be Loved are typical Morgan Heritage standards, elaborating on their signature style of playing roots reggae, a genre that’s – to their disappointment – drowned out by dancehall. One of the songs that turned out very well is Child of JAH, a collaboration with Chronixx. It has a very smooth off-beat vocal flow that’s lifting up the song right after the intro.

The rest of the album follows three paths. Light It Up picks up a deep electronic beat and moves into the direction of hip-hop and dancehall, a bit like Damian Marley would do. Then there is the mellow and R&B tinted single material such as Perform and Done and Why Dem Come Around, songs appreciated by the public. Finally, perhaps in an attempt to attract a wider audience, the album is completed by no less than 4 cheesy pop songs: So Amazing, Put It On Me, Sunday Morning and Celebrate Life. I’m wondering how many people argue this to be an enrichment of the record.

Festival Pal Mundo 2015

The second edition of the Pal Mundo Festival in the Netherlands has confirmed its ambition towards a leading European Caribbean and Latin festival. Even though Marc Anthony was simply removed from the show bill after headlining for about 5 months (he supposedly postponed his European tour) and also one of his replacements (Carlos Vives) didn’t come to the festival, the remaining line-up still matched every other.

2015.04.12 Pal Mundo 3

Although Krosfyah has not released any music for more than a decade, the soca group from Barbados easily managed to set the crowd on fire on the first night. It was a shame they only played half of their biggest hit Pump Me Up though. They were followed by reggaeton gangster Tego Calderon (Puerto Rico), whose show was very decent, despite the sometimes static performance and occasional playbacking. The night was well ended by veteran Juan Luis Guerra who never seems to have any problems getting a good live sound, despite the poor acoustics at the concert hall.

2015.04.12 Pal Mundo 4

On day two a big mistake was made by unleashing Kassav + Friends way too early and way too short. Half of the people must have missed the zouk legends and featuring artists such as Jean-Marc Ferdinand, Zouk Machine and Princess Lover. I managed to listen to the majority of the show on the radio while driving to the event. The consecutive artists on the main stage were Yandel, from the reggaeton duo Wisin Y Yandel, and Romeo Santos, who closed the festival with the same show as last year.

2015.04.12 Pal Mundo 1
2015.04.12 Pal Mundo 5

Altogether both the festival and its venue have surely exceeded the previous edition. A lot of attention is given to fancy promotion graphics, photos, videos and special effects. This is a big asset. Next year it would be nice to hear some salsa as well.

Kiss Daniel – Woju (featuring Davido, Tiwa Savage)

20-year-old and upcoming Nigerian artist Daniel Anidupe, better known as Kiss Daniel, has recently recorded a remix of his second hit song Woju. The remix is close to the initial version that was released 6 months ago, but now enriched by solos from non other than Tiwa Savage and Davido. The sticky rumba-like guitar (apparently from Fiokee who also did the lines on Scapegoat from D’Banj) is still very much dominating the rhythm.

It is admirable how often the Nigerian music industry comes to successful collaborations and it is probable that Kiss Daniel is here to stay.

J. Martins featuring Youssou N’Dour

Nigerian singer and producer J. Martins (1977) has recorded a song featuring the legendary Youssou N’Dour (1959) from Senegal. The song is titled Time Is Now, and is a heartfelt call to raise peoples’ consciousness and for a positive change to improve the African continent.

2015.02.01 J Martins & Youssou N'Dour - Time Is Now

The two voices wonderfully join together on a calm beat. Youssou N’Dour sends shivers down the spine in his native language, while J. Martins gives a more urban taste to the song in English. The pace of the music allows you to listen to the song’s message clearly.
The video could be seen as provocative, as it highlights some of the challenges Africa is facing (hunger, disease, corruption and lack of basic health care).

The song by these two internationally acclaimed artists is calling for more of such collaborations between two generations.

Carnival 2015 (Trinidad and Tobago)

Officially, the Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago this year is 15-16 February, but like every year almost every artists is boasting a number one hit. In fact the competition is ongoing throughout the year as if the carnival season is year round. Let’s see what has been out there recently and which songs are currently running up for this year Carnival’s anthem.

Machel Montano – Remedy
Put on Youtube in October 2014, but already tagged with ‘soca 2015’, Machel Montano’s first release for the Carnival Season 2015 is called Remedy. The song is being picked up and definitely a strong contestant. The video clip is focused on conveying the sticky lyrics (Oh Na Na Nah) and is still leaving behind other Machel Montano songs such as Like Ah BossEndless WukGetting On Bad and Erupt. Rumors are out that Shaggy will join this song for a ‘refix’. Yes, this Trinidadian soca singer is always very productive as he is also featuring a lot of other artists.

Olatunji – Ola (Kan Kan Riddim)
So far, Olatunji Yearwood has scored the biggest soca hit 2015 with the help of the Kan Kan Riddim. It is a very distinct template that has successfully been adopted with the song Ola. Strangely, my first association with it was the World Cup In South Africa (Shakira – Waka Waka). Either way, as soon as the song kicks off it immediately makes you want to put it on repeat. The smooth soca riddim with Olatunji’s singing on top makes this tune also my personal favorite – probably because the African sense.

Destra Garcia – Piece Ah Dat
Ok, besides the previous two obvious hits let’s add a female artist whose song is seriously not getting enough attention. Destra Garcia’s Piece Ah Dat maybe isn’t so original, but it can be described as a perfect example of ‘the soca recipe’. Maybe the song better comes into its own when it will be brought live on stage during the Carnival festivals, supported by Destra’s enormous amount of energy.

Flavour – Thankful

One of the big names in the naija (Nigerian) music scene, Flavour N’Abania, has recently released his 4th album, Thankful. After establishing his reputation with songs like Nwa Baby (Ashawo Remix) and Adamma, Flavour’s new cd definitely confirms his musical merit.

What is nice about Flavour is that he remains fairly faithful to the (Igbo) highlife genre. This is demonstrated by the first few songs of the album, such as the opening song Keneya (original three-four time), being one of my favorite songs along with the more up-tempo Ife Adigomma and Uru Dia (Shake 2).

Thankful contains different featured artists such as Wande Coal, who joins in the hit song Wake Up, as well as female singer Chidinma who adds a lot of harmony to the balad song Ololufe.

Altogether the album is one of Nigeria’s best releases this year. As with all African releases they can either be found in the music shops on the continent itself or via iTunes.

Juan Luis Guerra – Todo Tiene Su Hora

Following an extensive social media campaign Juan Luis Guerra has launched his twelfth studio album, Todo Tiene Su Hora. Together with his band 4.40 the 57-year-old Dominican superstar has recorded 10 songs with a total playing time of only 30 minutes. Nonetheless, the album is a rich supplement to his discography. Personally I find it better than his previous album Colección Cristiana that was released 2 years ago and was filled with a couple of old songs.

2014.11.14 Juan Luis Guerra - Todo Tiene Su Hora

The opening song of the cd is Cookies & Cream, a little cheesy merengue. It is followed by Tus Besos, a more carefully composed bachata which is also the album’s lead single. Canto A Colombia praises the country and people of Colombia and is an original blend of salsa and cumbia. The title song Todo Tiene Su Hora is a merengue and did also appeare prior to the album. It is followed by Dime Nora Mia, a typical Juan Luis Guerra salsa composition and melody. Para Que Sepas sounds very much like a Cuban bolero, especially because the beautiful hobo lines. Another merengue, and probably the most annoying song of the album because of its silly melody is El CapitánMuchachita Linda is a quiet and careful bachata and is followed by a fast salsa song, Todo Pasa. One can sense salsa is not Juan Luis Guerra’s domestic style, but there is no disputing about his songwriter qualities. The last song of the album is joined by fellow countryman Johnny Ventura and is a real merengue party!

The only song that has a videoclip is Tus Besos. The clip is in fact a little musical orchestrated by Juan Luis Guerra’s son who gave the clip a fifties theme.

Juan Luis Guerra has just completed a small Latin American tour together with Marc Anthony (Gigante2) and some shows also with Carlos Vives (Gigant3s). I don’t think he will build a tour around his new studio album (he hasn’t done so for his previous album either), but it would be exciting to hear some of his new material live on stage!

Mais Kizomba Hits 2

Many music collectors and enthusiasts like myself don’t easily get excited about a CD with various artists. Quite often those records are a compilation of two hit songs supplemented with disappointing songs that are literally cheap because little or no compensation is required by the original record labels. How different is the Mais Kozomba Hits 2 compilation, that was released last month. Almost all songs are outstanding, which makes it one of the best buys to introduce oneself in the kizomba genre.

It is obvious to point out the biggest kizomba hit on the album, the song Jajão by the Angolan artists Master Jake and Eddy Flow, an instant hit on the kizomba dance floors.

With the increasing significance of the music genre and expanding popularity of the dance style, it is interesting to see how the music adapts to a more urban character, while drawing inspiration from zouk, heavy (house) beats, R&B and indigenous (African) music. The two songs below are good examples of this phenomenom.

The CD offers a great section through kizomba in the Lusophone African countries, Brasil and Portugal. Only those who favor French kizomba should look for another compilation, for Mais Kizomba is focusing on Portuguese music.

Tarrus Riley Live

The honorable mister Dean Fraser underlined 10 years of Tarrus Riley‘s musical history at the beginning of the concert in a lyrical way: “…when this singer started to sing he had many Challenges. And then these Challenges became Parables. And these Parables soon became very Contagious…”.
After an out of place acoustic album, the Jamaican reggae singer made a good comeback with his fifth album in February of this year: Love Situation. The album is a throwback to classic Jamaican rocksteady and currently being promoted in Europe.

2014.10.15 Tarrus Riley Live

The show was opened by female singer Alaine. Although not my taste of music, she managed to set the atmosphere before Tarrus Riley made his entrance. I have to admit I was afraid of an R&B-ish concert, but the Black Soil Band didn’t bring any of that. Dean Fraser’s musicians play very tight while visibly making fun on stage at the same time.
With decent (roots) reggae concerts becoming rare events these days, this was one of the most versatile shows that I’ve seen in a long time. Although using a lot of existing rhythms – both old and new – Tarrus Riley´s remarkable voice easily adapts the songs to be his own. On top of that, there is a lot of interaction with the audience.

Peaks in the concert where a Buju Banton tribute over Special Occassion, the hit song Gimme Likkle One Drop, the medley Let’s Do It Again / Protect The People / Karma and older songs such as Lion Paw and Good Girl Gone Bad.