Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Let's Dance Latin

With The Trio San Jose

All music has rhythm; the music of Latin America is rhythm! Rhythm is on top and melody fills in the gaps.

It is the music of lazy movement in a warm climate, made up of sounds that reflect the rhythms of nature - the whirr of the grasshopper, the reluctant clop of a mule's hooves on cobble stones, the erratic croaking of frogs in the swamps at night, the strangely vocal pipings of native birds like the cenzontle - the native thrush of Guatemala.

One still feels in the sultry beat, the spirit of the jungle where the drum was a means of communication, and the impulse behind strange religious rites and dances. In those remote days, and even nowadays in the jungles of South America, where civilisation is still discovering pockets of primitive life, the instruments used were as weird and exotic as the music they produced. Llama skulls, jaguar claws, deer hooves, dried butterfly cocoons and human bones. The shapes and sounds survive in the modern rhythm instruments, now mass produced in city factories. Even in the most sophisticated Latin American music one feels the impulse of the primitive spirit, perhaps more than in any other modern musical language.

The final veneer was added by the Spanish conquerors who brought their exotic flamenco rhythms, the sultry poetry, and the strong influence of their guitar-strumming, castanet-clicking music. A great deal of erudition is expended on sorting out the diverse elements of Latin American music, Indian, Negro and European. It's indolent vitality is the heart-beat of a continent; a throbbing pulse of which the whole world has become aware. It's intoxicating qualities are guaranteed to excite an Eskimo just as much as a native born Mexican.

Even the names of the dances and songs are rhythmical and evocative. Some of them are worth rolling around the tongue just for the fun of it - marinera, sanjuanito, zamacueca, chacarera and guaracha. The briefest and snappiest seem to have appealed most to European ears, the tango, rumba, samba and conga.

This record is designed for universal pleasure. But it has all these subtle elements involved and it would be an insensitive soul that, while revelling in the rhythmical exuberance of a delightful number like O Pancha, failed to feel something of the primitive excitement beneath it all.

Peter Gammond

An Ariola Recording. - Cover photograph by courtesy of Rose, Morris & Co Ltd.

The Word Record Club Limited
Parkbridge House
Little Green

Para Viga Me Voy
La Novia
Rumba Tambah
O Pancha
Maria Delores
Moliendo Cafe
La Violatera
Angel D'Amore
Cucurrucucu Paloma
Mi Bella Flor

T 314 - no year given


  1. Gilles played one hell of a heavy funk tune- Starcrost - False Paradise, looked it up and guess what? It's a bastard to get hold of.