Review Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Salsa

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Missing the homeland and in need of a little dancing fix? The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Salsa is waiting for you. With transnational influences taken from salsa and son, this compilation will have you dancing in your chair before you even realise it.

Psychedelic salsa emerged in the 1960s when the fervent and growing music scene mirrored the global political and social climate of the time. It’s a style rooted in Afro-Cuban culture, but it’s also mixed closely with psychedelic rock and 1960s counter-culture attitude. Salseros had a voice during this cultural shift, and its voice was very psychedelic and musically radical. “From the fuzzy tropical guitars of the sixties and seventies to today’s cutting edge bands experimenting with weird and wonderful psychedelic sounds,” Cuban-American DJ Bongohead, or more formally known as Pablo Yglesias, brilliantly compiled this guide to have you time travel in a matter of minutes to a world full of congas, trumpets and cowbells.

Starting off with a traditional big band salsa feel, Los Fantasmas – a group based in Austin, Texas – starts the story with “Naci de la Rumba y Guaguanaco” (translating as “I was born from rumba and guaguanco”), referencing the founding rhythms that birthed psychedelic salsa in Cuba. As the selections continue, the listener is given a geographical and historical journey of psychedelic salsa. In the next two tracks British DJ/producer Quantic and Brooklyn-based band La Mecánica Popular show off their Peruvian and Cuban (with a hint of groove and funk) inspired tracks “Dub Y Guaguanaco” and “La Paz del Freak” respectively. The guide then takes us into Peruvian cumbia, by Conjunto Siglo 21 and then into contemporary Venezuelan salsa by Ray Perez and Bacalao Men.

Right off the bat Bacalao Men start their track with DJ scratches showing a fresh approach, while the next track mirrors Venezuela’s rich salsa history with an old school track by Nelson y Sus Estrellas. We can’t forget the epitome of what transnational psychedelic salsa is, the group San Lazaro representing Chile, Colombia, Cuba and Australia with an authentic salsa vibe through their song, “Muchacho Tranquilo”. We then head back to Peru with Los Sanders de Ñaña with a cumbia featuring a strong psychedelic lead guitar. Colombia is in the house with great salsas from Fruko y Sus Tesos and Los Pambele that will make even your grandparents take you out on the dance floor. The mix closes with Bio Ritmo, a Virginia-based Puerto Rican salsa group hitting home with their strong track “Chuleta”.

Basically I can write a novel about this mix, with its historical and musically diverse tracks. As salsa is my first love, I couldn’t have picked a better guide to dance the night away. So get this quick for your fellow DJ friends, salseros, mamis, papis, abuelos, tu amorcito, or even for yourself for those nights you need to practice some boogaloo! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Salsa is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and iTunes


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