Prezident Markon’s Singles Round-Up (La Dame Blanche, Lil Troca, Bratty, Ricardo Dias Gomes, D’água Negra, Carla Muzag and more)

By 06 September, 2023

September… (cue Phenix Horns). Everyone’s packed up and gone home now. It’s back to school, back to work, back to normality. Back, too, to all those new singles from the Latin world that just keep on keeping on. Here’s my pick of the pops from the last few weeks or so.

Aterciopelados feat. Rubén Albarrán: “Mujer Gala”

I tried spiking my hair, but I was never really cut out to be a punk. Far too middle-class and polite. Nevertheless, I still retain a soft spot for the best two-minute thrashes of yesteryear. XTC’s “Making Plans for Nigel”, for example. New wave must have had an impact in Colombia, too. Aterciopelados’ commemoration of the 28th anniversary of their flagship album El Dorado with a live concert in Bogotá was filmed and released as El Dorado En Vivo. This is the first single: a re-working of their number one hit, now with new added vocals by Rubén Albarrán, lead singer of Café Tacvba. Not sure about the costumes, which are more Puck than punk, but it’s a terrific slice of hard-rocking music that bristles with nostalgic attitude – and don’t the crowd just love it!

Lil Troca: “Los Pumas”

There’s attitude a-plenty, too, from the Argentinean rapper Lil Troca and his band of merry jesters, as they stalk the streets of downtown Buenos Aires, semaphoring with their hands presumably to the legion of fans lurking just off camera. Despite all the wearisome posturing, it’s a great record. Whoever’s playing double bass does for Enzo Tomás Gimenéz and his crew what the great Ron Carter did for Digable Planets on the immortal “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”.

La Dame Blanche: “Oïdos Sordos”

Songlines magazine, bless its global focus, talked of La Dame Blanche “wielding her flute like a weapon” and the “attitude-laden vibe” of her last album, Ella. On this sizzling single, recorded live in Miami’s Tigre Studios with her stage band, flautist, singer and percussionist Yaite Ramos displays why she is one of the most exciting Afro-Cuban artists on the scene today. It’s funky, infectious and a lot of fun.

Stephanie Santiago: “Campo de Minas”

There’s a palpable sense of melancholy in this single from the London-born-and-based singer, whose Colombian heritage is evident in the deep, restless percussion provided by the La Legion ensemble and recorded in the Altar Audio studio in Bogotá. The wistful timbre of her voice reminds me a little of the French reggae singer, Mo’ Kalamity. The song, whose title translates as “Minefield”, speaks of the search for happiness while negotiating the hazards of everyday prejudices.

Marïa Raquel: “Mucha Mujer”

Dripping with strings and sung with the kind of feeling that might lead one to expect something by, say, Sarah Vaughan, Marïa Raquel delivers an impassioned bolero that’s about a million miles away from the furious merengue she released back in April 2021, the last time that she sashayed across my radar screen. She was with Chulo Records back then and now seems to be with Daptone. It’s a very un-Daptone-like production, but it’s a striking song that suggests she could be going places.

Bratty: “Agosto”

By way of complete contrast, here’s “the shining new voice out of Mexico’s bedroom pop scene”, the singer-songwriter Bratty with a single taken from her new album in November, TR3S. Jenny Juárez (by any other name) confesses to being “overwhelmed by that feeling of another year passing by” each August, the month of her birth. “Agosto” offers “a pensive meditation on the passing of time” in the kind of bedroom that comes with sweet dreams guaranteed.

Ricardo Dias Gomes: “Real News”

Flushed with success after his recent album, Muito Sol, Domenico Lancellotti’s musical cohort on the splendid SRAMBA delivers two digital-only songs that were recorded at the same time as Muito Sol. He sings both “Real News” and “Feeling So Fresh” in English because they might have sounded “ludicrous” in Portuguese. “English is foreign and words don’t carry so much meanings and feeling,” the expatriate Brazilian singer-songwriter explains. It certainly sounds suitable for such unabashed pop music as this.

Jono Heyes: “Cantar La Guitarra”

On a rather deeper level comes this first single from Beehive, an album recorded with an international band of musicians over eight days in a purpose-built studio in the Czech countryside under the auspices of the celebrated engineer, Jerry Boys, who has worked with Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Toure and Buena Vista Social Club, to name but three high-profile projects. The Kiwi singer-songwriter has been described as a “global songsmith” and this passionate melange of flamenco, Cuban son and jazz offers a tantalising foretaste of an album scheduled for October.

D’água Negra: “Escárnio”

This sensuous, seductive video and single comes from a trio of siblings based in the north Brazilian city of Manaus. By day, they are psychologist, lawyer and doctor; by night, they turn down the lamps and light the candles and become D’água Negra (in tribute to the Rio Negro, the river that runs through the city and inspires the band with its sense of mystery, which comes over loud and clear in the video). The single derives from the album scheduled to appear this autumn. I look forward to hearing it, but if it doesn’t work out for them, at least they can go back to those big-hitting day jobs.

Carla Muzag: “Essencial”

We’ll stay with Brazil for this gorgeous, simmering hors d’oeuvre from the album 5 Orientes, out at the end of last month. The singer, songwriter and actress hails from Belo Horizonte and her upbringing in a musical and artistic family certainly shines forth on this single. Excuse me please as I delve into the album with the keen anticipation of a gourmet anticipating the plat principal.

Francisca Valenzuela: “Nada Para Ti” (feat. Ximena Sariñana)

I just can’t make up my mind about this one. It starts off quietly and seemingly sincerely in a way that spotlights the Chilean singer’s lovely, pure voice, but then the producer steps on the gas and it wavers dangerously close to the emotional edge of Bonnie Tyler or Lorraine Ellison, whose “Stay With Me, Baby” always leaves me a little uncomfortable. I know that maybe I should like it, but nevertheless… Anyway, it’s a song that comes from “an album that portrays the survival of a breakup”, as the singer explains, so let’s just enjoy her voice and that of the Mexican chanteuse, Ximena Sariñana.

Draco Rosa and Nátalia Lafourcade: “Blanca Mujer”

I think this time it’s probably the wrapt audience’s overt enthusiasm for this reinterpretation of his classic song, recorded live in the singer’s native Puerto Rico, that leaves me with a slight sense of unease. It’s a good song and if it were sung by Caetano Veloso, say, I’d probably feel trouble-free. The song apparently “speaks of death” and, as the artist suggests, “‘Blanca Mujer’ is that moment, where in that loneliness, one hopes to find that white woman.” As someone who has survived more than one brush with cancer, the Puerto Rican singer should know.

Calle Mambo: “Timba Mambo

No worries about this one, mate. This joyful and thoroughly catchy song seems like a good place at which to conclude this round-up. The terrific new single marks the tail-end of the Germany-based Chilean group’s current European tour. Their goal is “to unify the Latin-American folklore with the modernity of the electronic beats and urban music songs.” “Timba Mambo” suggests that they’ve already succeeded admirably.


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