La Mambanegra ‘El Callegüeso y Su Mala Maña’ CD/LP/Dig (Movimientos) 4/5

Pan-Caribbean grooves are the order of the day on this slice of driving Colombian salsa with funk and the occasional hip-hop influence and underlying it all, some of the literary magic realism for which Colombia is so rightly famous. The music is inspired by an anonymous and mythical hero of one of the popular working class neighbourhoods in Cali, called barrio obrero. In fact on the Pacific coastline of Colombia, there is a thriving music scene and in the case of La Mambanegra one that in the choppy rhythms and chanted vocals takes a leaf out of Cuban band Los Van Van, and that is most certainly the case of the opener, ‘Puro Potenkem’. This writer immediately warmed to the 1970s style horns that echo the classic salsa dura of New York. Where this album wins hands down over contemporary salsa is in the variety of styles with great subtlety displayed on the muted trumpet and electric piano accompaniment of, ‘Cantare para vos’, which features what sounds like a Cuban trés and with nasal male lead vocals reminiscent of Rubén Blades. There is even some retro cha-cha in the intro to the mid-tempo burner that is, ‘El sabor de la guayaba’ with the guest vocals of Santiago Jimenez. More contemporary dance flavours with hammond organ and funk tinges are evident on, ‘La compostura’.
Neither reggaeton nor salsa romantica, this authentic salsa meets son fusion offering promises a great deal and succeeds on all fronts in delivering first rate dancefloor grooves. Little wonder they cooked up a musical storm at the 2016 Womad festival.

Tim Stenhouse