Ok, so after I check out this awesome mambo mixtape I got in the Dominican Republic, of course I wanted more. And I knew from my days combing for bongoflava that this wouldn’t be as simple as firing up the ol’ Soulseek. This was going to be navigating through the slapdash HTML slums of the Third World Internet armed with only Google and a passable knowledge of Spanish. Luckily I stumbled upon something promising right off the bat, something that was much more than the mambo treasure trove I desired. This was Tecnorumba, a Spanish-language social-networking site hosting videos, chat, and most importantly, thousands of mp3s. I found plenty of mambo (I think Tecnorumba is based in the Caribbean, if not the Dominican Republic) as well as… well, everything else. The latest American rap, Eurodance, reggaeton, bhangra, old school salsa, and LOTS of homemade remixes branded with that mark of piracy-based mongrel music — “Made with Sonic Foundry ACID.” This was something foreign and yet familiar at the same time, and I could almost envision the soundwaves of the poorly beatmatched 50 Cent/cumbia mashups as I started a massive binge of downloading.
What I find interesting about Tecnorumba is that it’s a node in the vast series of Intertubes in which the music of the Global Postmodern — mainly indigenized and hybridized forms of hip hop, reggae, and dance music from throughout the developing world — collects and mutates, almost with a mind of its own. Indeed, sifting through the vast amount of music on the site, my browsing imitated a data-mining virus more than a record connoisseur. I scooped up as much as I could through a series of preset inputs (“search ‘reggaeton'”; “search ‘remix'”), then went back through to pick out the valuable pieces of information. So several weeks later, after picking through bad songs, broken links, odd titles, shitty mastering, and the kind of bizarrely wonderful cultural soundclashes you only find through a mixture of serendipity and perseverance, I could come out with this value-added compilation of harvested data that will fit on any standard CD-R: Tecnorumba: The Mix.
The music of Caribbean has always been subject to clashing cultures wrought by economic imperatives, and Tecnorumba is just a late installment in this long history. Still, I wonder at the weird kinds of identities being produced by this proliferation and collision of culture, where Turkish DJs make reggaeton hits big in Dominican clubs, where Tanzanian hip hop mixes made by Dubai DJs find their way into Eastern Europe via digital trade routes through the Caribbean, where microgenres formed in the crucible of geographic and cultural isolation suddenly invade the hard drives of youth worldwide hungry for shared contexts. This is what I mean by “Translatinidad,” in which identity becomes ingrained more through cultural collaboration and mixture than through political boundaries or racial categories, although a shared language seems to be one major organizing principle. I’ve got at least one more installment of the Translatinidad theme planned, hence “Vol. 1.”
- DJ Mauro Martinez – Cumbia Crunk – excerpt from a mix of cumbia rhythms and rap acapellas
- Omega – Me Persiguen Los Mamberos – Omega is the king of mambo: although not necessarily its most representative artist, he could be the genre’s most talented. He’s got a whole band, and his songs have that spontaneity of a live performance, although structurally they’re similar to other mambo songs.
- DJ Hakki – Kolbalsti – From what I can tell, DJ Hakki is a Turkish DJ who makes reggaeton-inflected Turkish club-dance. Reggaeton is HUGE in the nascent Turkish pop industry, and Hakki’s in turn found fans in the Caribbean.
- Africanos – DRAGON ROJO – Champeta used to be a kind of Spanish afrobeat from Cartagena, Colombia, but now can refer to any number of sonic mixtures hailing from the area. This one is more cavernous Latin house than anything.
- rumba portuguesa – I have no information on the artist, but it sounds like it’s from a mix of rave-influenced Latin music. There’s some cubia-style accordion as well as trancey synths.
- Punto Rojo feat. Nastasja – Calabria (Dominican Remix) – The 2007 reggae-fied remixes of “Calabria” by Danish producer Rune are blowing up Spanish radio. Here’s the Dominican version.
- Mambo Infinito feat La Mayor – Coje Lo Tuyo – This is basically mambo ghettotech and as such IT OWNS. We’ll see how long it takes for this to migrate from my blog into Diplo’s DJ sets.
- DJ Sam – Minimambo Mix – A 10-minute mix of merengue, street and classic.
- Huaynos – Llaqta – Ok, I don’t know if I got the info right, but this is an example of the guitar+female vocal music of the Andes that influenced cumbia. Heartwrenching singing!
- Charly Dyen – Esposa amp Amante. This is labeled “Bachatatango,” which means you get that arpeggiated guitar with some FUNKY bass for your troubles. Oh, and some drum machine kicks and claps for good measure. This cuts off abruptly, so was probably part of a mix I wish I had.
- DJ Blu – Chingue Tu Madre. Yes, they are acquainted with the dance genre of ‘breaks’ in Latin America as well (proximity to Florida probably helps).
- Don Chezina – Te Pongo Mujer. Don Chezina was in Playero 38, the DJ crew that got reggaeton started from a hodge-podge of Spanish dancehall and 90s hip hop. This particular track is a perreo-style romp through the beatboxing from Doug E Fresh’s “Freaks.”
- Tempo – Donde Estan Las Girlas – Another older Puerto Rican track, with the synth riff from “I Like to Move It Move It” and some dem bow drums. Tempo was the doyen of dirty lyrics in the pre-crossover days of reggaeton; unfortunately he was in prison when Daddy Yankee broke big. Truthfully he is a bit lacking as an MC.
- DJ Ricky – Los Power Ranger En Mambo – El nombre dice lo que es. DJ Ricky is the go-to guy for mambo remixes (sort of like DJ Kazzanova in reggaeton). Here he covers the Power Rangers theme, while throwing some 50 Cent and Nate Dogg acapellas over top apropos of nothing. Zany!
- El Original – Te Doy (rmx) – This is the token cracked-out cumbia track, with a reggae interlude for good measure. I had hoped to find more druggy-as-hell cumbia in Tecnorumba, but came up short.
- Omega y Su Mambo Violento – Por Telefono No – Omega begging his girl not to break up with him over the phone. Great theme for a track like this, and once again Omega’s performance doesn’t disappoint.
- Arcangel – Siente El Mambo – Another DJ Ricky remix. The hushed vocals and unreleased tension remind me of the Whisper song.
- Hector El Father – Tumba -Reggaeton heavyweight with some merengueton; melodically this owes more to standard merengue than the ultra-minimal mambo/merengue de calle. A nice spice to what otherwise could be one of those drearily portentuous reggaeton anthems.
- Guanabanas – Chinga – Some bhangra drums and bed-squeaking (a la Trillville’s “Some Cut”) with your reggaeton? Yes, please. “Chinga” means “fuck,” so you can guess what this song’s about.
- El Rookie – Papel y Pluma – Old school (1998) Spanish dancehall! Maybe Panamanian?
- Residente Calle 13 – Japon (DJ Sticky Remix) – Another mambo remix of a reggaeton track, with all the appropriate seriousness that Residente commands.
- Jessly – Adios Amor – More of that beautiful musica de indios Andeando, but very well produced. The shimmering off-kilter guitar rhythm has a “glitch-remix” feel to it, but it’s all natural. Does Bjork listen to this stuff?
Coming soon: More Translatinidad mixes! And should you find anything worthwhile on your own Tecnorumba expeditions, drop me a line.