Wara ‘Leave to remain’ (Movimientos) 3/5

Nine piece London-based band Wara typify the cosmopolitan make up of the capital and this very modern take on the Latin music scene which takes on board elements of nu-soul, the funkier side of jazz and even pop-reggae has much to be commended. On the positive side the fusion of Latin grooves with jazz-funk inspired instrumentation and lyrics that shift between English and Spanish works extremely well and is an integral part of the group’s identity and this should remain firmly at the core of their repertoire. It is best exemplified by songs such as ‘Somewhereland’ which comes across as a more latinised version of Incognito and certainly the undercurrent of Latin percussion and electric piano makes this one of the albums strongest components. Lead vocals here are delivered by Congolese-Argentinean singer Juanita Euka who happpens to be the niece of Congolese soukouss legend Franco. For fans of straighter ahead Latin dancefloor music, there are a couple of numbers that fit the bill. Salsa with a modern twist permeates the uptempo ‘No se vende’ which has a jazz interlude on trumpet while there is a catchy keyboard vamp on the mid-tempo ‘Caprichoso’ which is sung in English. Nu soul with an acoustic flavour is the order of the day on a breezy reworking of ‘Flesh and bones’ which was the title track of their 2011 EP, though the rap interlude could easily have been dispensed with. Where the group need to be wary is attempting too many styles in one recording and the cod-reggae of ‘Run for cover’ which part way through then morphs into two-tone ska territory is maybe a step too far on a first album and should be attempted in more depth at a later date once the group are fully established with their own distinct identity. It will be enough for audiences to come to terms with the combination of soul and Latin music, convincing though this is. Afro-Cuban folk roots are explored on ‘Pide a yemayá’ with the lead vocalist sounding akin to Myriam Makeba here. Overall a very promising debut and the UK tour continues through June and July.

Tim Stenhouse