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Analog Africa No. 7

Anibal VelasQuez y Su Conjunto


Mambo Loco

CD/vinyl – Out now on Analog Africa







A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


This seriously enlivening CD infected me with a strong case of love at first listen with its dance inducing beats, percolating rhythms and hotter than hot musicianship. It’s a bit of a departure for Analog Africa who forged their well deserved, luminous reputation releasing ‘forgotten gems from 70’s Africa’, though this Colombian detour is well worth the effort, especially as the choice tracks on Mambo Loco represent some of the most essential from their DJ-ing sessions.

Barranquilla, the home port of star accordion player Anibal VelasQuez sits midway between the Caribbean Sea and the Rio Magdalena. This happy position marks the town as a prime gateway to all things Tropical. Fondly dubbed “El Mago” (the Magician) by his fans, VelasQuez embodies Colombia’s Musica Tropical movement and is credited with popularising accordion music, formerly associated solely with the peasant population, on his own mix of stylistic influences, among them his native cumbias and mapales and Cuban music. His breakthrough hit came with “La Gallina” in 1952. In 1960, following the death of fellow musician and Cuban music enthusiast Robertico Roman, and, subsequently, years as a session musician, Velasquez formed a band with his elder brother Juan, a gifted musician in his own right, and younger brother Jose, who ‘re-invented old rhythms, replacing the traditional bongos used in Cuban Guaracha and Rumba with a traditional Colombian drum called “La Caja” which he modified by adding “radiografias medicas” (x-ray film)’ over it. ‘This – combined with Anibal’s powerful accordion – was to become a sensation, generating a much harder and drier sound.’ Other influences gradually entered the mix, among them, Puerto Rican; a move to Venezuela in the ‘70’s widened that field. It is said that Velasquez recorded over 300 LPs during the course of his career. His music is known and loved for its joy, as well as its lyrics speaking of everyday life.

After a deceptively boogie woogie piano opening, the collection gets off to a solidly fiery start with ‘Carruseles’ which may seem somewhat traditional from there on in to some experienced cha-cha-chaers but is in reality, a multi-layered, kick stepping delight! A bubbling sound was detected trying to slip through the slim cracks of the song’s dense layers as our listeners stepped and twirled to the rhythmically irresistible beats. More please, or should I say, ‘Mas, por favour!’

‘Los Vecinos’ picks up where the opening track left off, dancing us into a slightly different rhythm that is much more Mambo than cha-cha, more Son than sombrero, though the steps you select to go along with its tinge of darkness through the slats sound are strictly up to you! Either way, the song’s infectiousness and persuasive vocals further establishes that it personifies Party time with a capitol P.

The dancing fever inspired by track two trails off, only to be resurrected with a renewed fervour matching its musicians on the get up and go, peppery percussive and chanting vocals of ‘Cecilla’.  Its singing is Cubano, sliding piano meets beating Africano and the results are nothing short of muy bueno! 

Track four ‘Mi cumbia’ contains some deliciously agile accordion licks designed to spread smiles with their warm, happy go lucky flavour. A reedy pipe luring, some singers calling as if to fill the floor and you’re well into wherever this song wherever it leads, not much caring where it takes you, as long as you continue to be lead.

‘Que Paso’ made me wonder just what was being asked of us by these buoyant musicians, but no matter, the dancing continued non-stop, a tad faster on the feet with a pinch more hip swinging! Again, Anibal VelasQuez’s upbeat accordion leads with some trippy ivory tickling piano swaying us as relentlessly as a balmy breeze, with hard beaten drumming forming a bouncy backdrop. A sweetly assembled jam lengthens this track to five minutes plus, during which you’re bound to get helplessly stuck in!

Mercy/Mercia I cried, but ‘Vestido Nuevo’ lulled me on, providing more sway with its alluring vocals and itching to get more upbeat instrumentation, and full on accordion simultaneously engaging ears, feet, ears, hips and shoulders. I almost felt we could do the Limbo Rock to this track though few were into bending that low after the solidly rhythmic jamming and dancing of ‘Que Paso’ before it.

Pulsating percussives announced the title track, ‘Mambo Loco’ before VelasQuez’s compulsive accordion and infectious laughter joined in, inspiring us to do the same. Where do they get their energy? we wondered, at the same time, drawing on our own with a determination no album in recent memory has inspired. VelasQuez continued to laugh, like Satan laughing at the fools inadvertently clamouring at his door, when he’d warned them he’d want paying many times before. Truly loco!

‘Cumbia Bogolana’ is nothing short of sublime, especially coming along as it does after such a stormy track as the one before. Soothing call and response vocals seem comfortingly reassuring, as does VelasQuez’s charming accordion and his ever entrancing percussive players, soothing savage beats. My Spanish is admittedly, muy rusty, but I must look up what some of these titles mean in Ingles.

Soulful, unaccompanied vocals open deceptively tame, ‘El Pecheche’ which quickly lifts us from any thoughts of sitting via it’s DIY sounding percussives, suggestive of spoons on glasses and tin cans, inspiring all present to form a very animated Conga line, stretching into infinity if these musicians have their enchanting way with us. However, the track trails off far too soon, making way for the delightful, ‘Santo Amor’.

Lovely, infectiously rhythmic and all of this before its’ passionate, hold nothing back vocals even begin! We are there, in the eye of the rhythmic nucleus that unites us all, dancing as one, yet, with each dancer doing his/her own thing. Richly classic, irresistible Mambo Loco reminds us that through music many things are possible, perhaps even, solidarity, beginning on the dance floor, which, will be wherever we are, whenever we hear it.

If you think it’s time your mojo had an MOT, check out this link ASAP!

Editor’s note: If you purchase this compulsively replayable collection of songs, on either CD or vinyl, ASAP, you will also receive a Ltd edition 24-page booklet...Just ask for CD (AACD 067) or its vinyl equivalent in gatefold cover (AALP 067)












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