Various ‘Panama 2’ (Soundways) 2LP/CD 5/5

panama-2The much-anticipated follow-up to the superb volume one is finally with us. 
It was the former that introduced us to the varied sounds of Panamanian music and the original liner notes read like a vinyl collectors dream. Stumbling upon a treasure trove of rare grooves in central America. Volume two takes up the story again and is a cornucopia of musical delights on offer. What is interesting is that the major Latin labels of new York used Panama as a testing ground for their products’ sounds. This exposed Panamanians to a whole range of top quality music from the Tico and Fania labels to name but a few. On this compilation the styles vary from heavy Latin descargas to tropical cumbia and funk-laden calypso covering the decade 1967-1977. The opener ‘La Murga’ by Papi Brandao y su conjunto sets the tone with a song composed and made famous by Puerto Rican tromobonist/vocalist/producer Wille Colon and inpsired by an indigenous rhythm of Panama referred to in the title. Another Colon tune, the instrumental ‘Jazzy’ is revisited by Los Papacitos while the hard-hitting guaguanco ‘La confianza’ by Menique el Panameno con Bush y los Magnificos shifts from Afro-Cuban intro to montuno section effortlessly. Camilo Azuquita has made a career in France since the late 1970s, but here we find him on a classic salsa dura song on ‘Borombon’.
For left-field music fans, ‘Juck Juck Pt. 1’ by Sir Jablonsky fits the bill perfectly. While the bass and drums are influenced by funk, the guitar riffs are roots reggae and the horns and vocals classic calypso, or at least the Panamanian take on the genre. This musical metissage should not come as a great surprise when one looks at a map of the region and realises the proximity of Trinidad and the facility with which the casual radio listener can tune in to a multitude of different sounds. Among other numbers, the percussive instrumental take on ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ by the Soul Fanatics impresses as does the Latin rock of the Santana-influenced ‘Descarga superior’ complete with saxophone solo by Los Superiores. Factor in the usual high standard of sleeve notes and graphics with original single/album labels and covers and you have one of the year’s indispensable compilations.

Tim Stenhouse