Thursday, August 29, 2013

Music - The Latin American Sounds of Fania Records

One of the great things about Freegal is the vast amount of smaller record labels that are part of the Sony Records empire.  One such label I’ve been delving into lately has been Fania Records, a company that thrived in the 1960s and '70s with its distinct sound of Latin rhythms melded with American jazz, funk, and R&B. You can get a good feel for the music by listening to any of the songs on the excellent El Barrio Funk sampler (the cover of which, by the way, perfectly embodies the Fania ethos), or you may just want to try these three songs:

Subway JoeJoe Bataan
"Subway Joe"
From Subway Joe 

Coming on like Motown by way of Spanish Harlem, “Subway Joe” uses a humorous tale about an eventful subway ride to capture the excitement of a night spent wandering around a busy multicultural metropolis. Half Filipino and half African American, Joe Bataan is a great representative for a label that specialized in musical hybrids.     

Ray Barretto
From Acid

The repetition of a simple but funky bass riff is the bedrock from which Ray Barretto and band build an infectious groove on “Acid.”  There are also some wild horn shenanigans and a cool piano figure, but the main attraction here is Barretto’s impassioned percussion performance. His conga solo is mesmerizing in its speed, intensity, and fluctuation of rhythmic patterns.  

File:Cosa Nuestra.jpegWillie Colón
"Che Che Colé"
From Cosa Nuestra

“Che Che Colé” features the vocals of Héctor Lavoe, a legendary salsa singer who first made his name with Willie Colon’s band.  It’s a great song—the piano dances, the percussion makes you want to move your hips, and Lavoe’s voice floats lightly over the music.  Interestingly, singer Marc Anthony starred as Lavoe in the biopic El Cantante, and he also recorded a version of “Che Che Colé” for the soundtrack.        

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