Compass: Navigating the Global Dancefloor

MIS + Toy Selectah Present: Compass

Antionio Hernández and Camilo Lara could be described as the modern-day dons of Latin music. The two producers better known as Toy Selectah and Mexican Institute of Sound have helped shape, globalise and drive the evolution of modern Latin American music. From the advent of digital Cumbia to subtly infusing modern-day Pop with Latin roots and sounds, the influence of these two can be felt on dancefloors and charts all over the world. Under the name Compass, the two have now combined forces on a project celebrating and championing global sound. It is in their words, the duo’s “PhD thesis on global music production”.

Lara, Maluca, Gael Garcia Bernal & Toy recording Compass

The name Compass comes from the Mexican compas or compadres meaning buddies but is also a metaphor for the project’s navigation around the world of modern music production. The album to be released in 2015 features an astounding 80 collaborators, from four continents, endless genres, styles and sounds.

“WE WANTED TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT THE DANCEFLOOR IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE; IT’S A VERY DEMOCRATIC PLACE WHERE ANYONE CAN SHARE MUSIC’S ENERGY”

Alongside some recognisable names in the Latin electronic music scene like Bonde Do Role, DJ Dusty, Eric Bobo (Cypress Hill) and Helado Negro, the project also features a few surprises including Boy George, Toots & the Maytals, Sly & Robbie and Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera. As Lara says: “It’s a global album, but it all has a distinctive Mexican flavour.”

The album will be released next year but watch out for a series of five videos detailing the project recording process and more via Red Bull. Red Bull, which supported the recording of the album, also last week released a preview of one of the tracks, La Llama.

“IT’S JUST MUSIC, WE ALL SHARE A BEAT, YOU KNOW?”

This cut is held together by a trademark MIS sample fuelled beat fused with the global influences of Notch (formerly of Born Jamericans), New York’s Matty Rico and Ohmega Watts, ghetto-techno empress Maluca, legendary Cali dj Kut Masta Kurt and Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark. Check out an interview with the two dons here for more information.

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Musical migrations: Cholos in Japan

Culture moves in mysterious ways. The Huffington Post this week ran a little feature on the presence of Mexican-American chicano or cholo culture, music, fashion and lifestlye in Japan. Its beginnings can apparently be traced to the emergence of lowrider culture (Lowrider magazine has over 70,000 readers in Japan!) and the lifestyle that comes with it. However, for the past few years the scene has grown to include homegrown chicano or cholo fashion, music and language.

One of the key names attributed to pushing Mexican-American music in Japan is Shin Miyata who as a youth spent time living in LA and became fascinated by chicano culture. Upon returning to Japan he set up his own record label Barrio Gold Records and began to release classic chicano albums from the Rampart Records back catalogue by the likes of Quetzal, El Chicano,  Little Willie G and more. This, combined with the strong lowrider scene in the country contributed to the emergence of a small but seemingly thriving Japanese chicano sub-culture.

In more recent times Japanese chicanos have sought inspiration from the cholo hip-hop scene, giving way to the emergence of chicano rap groups whose lyrics move between Spanglish and Japanese and who dress in stereotypical cholo style. As rapper Cuete Yeska said of the scene in Japan a while back:

Last night I was on myspace, there’s a guy named Ese Lil Night, he gave me a message saying that I cant wait for your CD to come out, all my vatos and all the hynas out here cant wait to see you in Japan, we got your back Cuete. Wow, when I read that, these guys were talking to me in my language. He was Chicanoed out! He had locs on, he had the clothing. Now, they look like eses more than I ever would have imagined, they just down with the music.

Another wonderfully strange cultural movement: from Mexican-American sub-culture to Japanese-Mexican-American sub-culture. To finish, not really chicano but a Japaenese version of Murder She Wrote riddim.

La Chamana – A Tribute to Chavela Vargas

Earlier this month one of Mexico’s most notorious and loved musicians Chavela Vargas passed away at the age of 93. Film maker and soul mate Pedro Almodovar described Vargas as “the rough voice of tenderness” and her drawling, sadness soaked ranchera renditions made her one of the country’s most unique voices.

She also became renowned for her fearless breaches of taboo subjects in 40s and 50s Mexico (singing love songs about women, wearing trousers, carrying a loaded pistol and crediting her recovery from polio to shamans) and heavy bouts of drinking, accompanied by fellow ranchera composer and singer José Alfredo Jiménez. Despite not declaring herself a lesbian until the age of 81, her music was adopted by Mexico’s gay and lesbian community and she went on to become one of the country’s most legendary figures and singers. You can find a short but well written obituary on Chavela Vargas from The Guardian.

In celebration of la chamana‘s life and music, a group of artists have recorded and released their own tribute to the singer. The whole album 21 songs (or 40 with the extras) is available for free download here. For those who, like me, are new to Vargas’ extensive work (over 80 albums!) this is a great introduction to one of Latin America’s great singers. Or you could also watch a few Almodovar films…

Ezekiel – Life Begins at Night (Moveltraxx)

There must be something in the water. First there was Control Machete (and of course Toy Selectah) then the whole 3Ball MTY explosion now Monterrey gives us Ezekiel. The young Mexican producer has been making waves in all the right places for his fusion of splintered “bass” styles (dubstep, trap, hip-hop, juke), creating fresh music that manages to stand out in the sea of bad imitations.

Yesterday, Paris based label Moveltraxx released Ezekiel’s EP “Life Begins at Night“. The producer has already been hyped by taste makers (including mentions from MTV Iggy and the Diplo blessing on his BBC Radio 1 show) and the EP lives up to the hype. The artwork might be questionable but the music hits the spot.

“Irreversible” is a hard hitting hip-hop with splinters of raving bass and spilling snares while hit “Drop Ur Ass” pushes the lines between Juke and Dubstep. “Last Rave” is the weakest on the EP (but put that down to personal preference) yet all is saved by final cut “Aguacate”. Lots of attitude and swagger but some quality producing to back it up. The music grabs and hints at influences from the spectrum of bass music but manages to craft a sound that is original, captivating and sure to make an impact on a dancefloor. Exciting things to come. You can pick up the EP from iTunes, Beatport and Juno.

Siete Catorce – Siete Catorce (CocoBass)

Siete Catorce, who we wrote about a while back (Deep 3ball), has put together an eponymous EP for the sparkling hub of Tropicalia that is COCOBASS Records. The EP follows on from the Mexican producer’s previous explorations between guaracha/3ball/cumbia and electronica/house/bass and the results are innovative and ear-catching.

Siete Catorce – Doble Eme

Going on his output and directions (also releases material as Den5hion), the producer has a head full of ideas and a knack for pushing sounds in new directions. You can download the release directly for FREE here and go to Juno to get the rest of the CocoBass back catalogue.

VA – El Rave Azteca (Choles Records)

First off, apologies for the recent blog slowdown. We return with a slice of international 3ball for your ears showing how the tribal rhythm continues to reverberate around the world. Choles Records is a cross-border netlabel: based in Texas but stretching its musical tentacles across the Rio Grande into the Aztec heartland.

After two EPs of Cumbia explorations/deviations from Chico Ye and DJ Charly de Chicago, their third free-to-download release consists of 14 cuts of global 3ball Guarachero made up of “Nahuatl vocal samples, dubby bass slurps, Ibiza-like breakdowns, and guarachero drumming.”(Ft. Pacheko, Mexicans with Guns, Meneo etc). Take a listen to a preview mix of the release below, download it for FREE here and then go check out Choles Records‘ previous two releases.

CR003 – El Rave Azteca – Compilación – Preview Mix 

 

Latin Power Music – 3Ball MTY Pop

This seems to be the first official video for a 3Ball(Tribal) song and comes as a sign that the style, already popular in pockets of Mexico and in the global bass scene, may be heading for a wider audience. The song (‘Inténtalo ( Me Prende)’) is attributed to 3Ball MTY, a collaboration between the three 3Ball innovators DJ Erick Rincón, Sheeqo Beat and DJ Otto (who feature in the video and still look about 15…). To give the song some Latin Pop credibility singer America Sierra and ‘el nuevo ídolo de la música mexicana’ El Bebeto have been roped in to create a crossover collaboration of young Mexican artists. With this video it seems 3Ball MTY may be taking an interesting turn towards pop and mainstream exposure. The video also features  a troop of futuristic cowboy dancers (Los Parranderos) clad with THOSE pointy shoes: