‘Club Coco’ is a new compilation of Afro Latin aces by selectora and Worldwide FM radio host Coco María – Pablo Borchi provides the rundown on all of the tracks compiled for Bongo Joe Records

DJ and Worldwide FM radio host Coco María has selected 11 Afro-Latin jams, oddities and future classics on Club Coco for Swiss label Bongo Joe – featuring exclusive and scorching cuts from Nico Mauskovic, La Perla, Meridian Brothers, Frente Cumbiero, Malphino and one of her own works, as she moves into creating.

More on the rise of Coco María after a rundown of the selection of cutting edge Latin music by Pablo Borchi – a leading journalist at the fantastic Tigre Sounds online platform.

Here Paulo Borchie (Mexico, 2021) takes us through the compilation track-by track:

1)  “A great example of [the current calibre of modern Afro Latin music] can be appreciated right from the opening track, Nico Mauskovic (of The Mauskovic Dance Band) – A Big Brain is a call-and-response instrumental that is built almost like a live jam. Floating on top of a cumbia loop full of high pitched cowbells (that must have been chopped from a percussion break from a Wganda Kenya track), this song is a juggle of Los Mirlos’ inspired guitar licks, psychedelic synth pads, feel-good cumbia basses and the Mauskovic Dance Band trademark chants. It’s the kind of song you would expect when warming up any sort of Latin party.”

2) “Second, comes La Perla, a classic drum ensemble from Bogotá that uses their grassroots set up in an innovative way to transmit the modern energy of Bogota’s urban life with an upfront – almost punk – attitude. In this track called Guayabo, the warmth of the drums is contrasted with a metaphor about being hungover (i.e. “guayabo”) over the amount of violence and disappearances of people currently experienced in their country. This reflects the ability of cumbia to reconcile the happiness and hardships of life through music.”

3) “Meridian Brothers y Grupo Renacimiento use the same approach of contrasting feel-good music with critical lyrics on their Bomba Atómica. In this case, Bomba Atómica is used as a metaphor to point out how hatred towards others damages society, even more than an atomic bomb. Musically, the track combines tumbao pianos to create a cumbia that reminds us of the classic sonidero song Mambo de la Merced – which is injected by a subtle laptop electronic vibe through hi-hats that almost feel programmed in 8bit and chops of guitars filtered through weird delays.”

4) “Octopus Dance by Graham Mushnik (one of the members of Derya Yildirim & Grup Simsek) seems to work in the opposite direction as the rest of the tracks. Instead of feeling like Latin music travelling to Europe, this song feels as if an ambient UK jazz record was sent to a remote island in the Caribbean and there it got reinterpreted by the creatures of the sea. This is a music piece that paints a picture of someone being enjoying the beach at night by combining laid-back Esquivel 70’ retro-futuristic vibraphone melodies with some Hawaiian- western guitar licks, all running ultra-smooth over a soft cumbia loop of guacharaca and tumbadoras.”

5) “Mexico’s La Redada pays homage to Brazil’s Joao Donato in a reinterpretation of his song Cala Boca Menino. In this version called Calla Boca, La Redada gives Joao’s lyrics a completely different backing track with a strong Avandaro/Woodstock psychedelic Latin soul groove, which goes back and forwards between explosive and laid back moments. Additionally, a key part of the track is that although the song could easily remind us of Santana’s Jingo Lo Ba, La Redada manages to create a very unique style by using sound textures and rhythms that are much closer to vintage cumbia instead of rock.”

6) Venezuelan Alex Figueira (best known for his past work with Fumaca Preta) connects closer to the Caribbean by raising the tempo and doing a rework of Surinam’s traditional song by A. Bechan’s Morerarie Morei Atjara. Despite going on a remix on this one, he never concedes to club sounds. Instead, using samples and loops helps to give the original track a punkier attitude without losing its analogue feel, which reminds us of the way La Perla or Los Pirañas do the same in their music. In many ways, this is a reflection of the sign of our times where even musicians used to work with analogue sounds and live bands inevitably carry within themselves a high dose of electronic dancefloor culture.”

7) “Coco María and Max Weissenfeldt also put one of their tracks into the compilation. A nice example of how broad can be the music dots that are connected in this album. On Me Veo Volar she teams up with Max from the seminal German rare-groove band Poets Of Rhythm and who currently runs the label Philophon. Together they create a track that hooks you right from the start with a brass section that sits at a midpoint between James Brown and The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. Whilst running on top of a series of highlife-type of percussions, the song then uses Coco María’s vocals and synth leads to introduce melodies that remind us of Mexican 70’s classics such as Jeannette’s Porque Te Vas or Los Angeles Negro’s Y Volveré.”

8) “If there is a band that can take cumbia to the furthest frontiers of innovation while still keeping in touch with the roots of the genre and its analogue sound, that is Frente Cumbiero. Throughout the past 10 years, this project led by Colombia’s Mario Galeano has established itself as a go-to reference for anyone trying to make analogue cumbia with an international feel. If you pay attention to many of the other songs in this album you will probably start picking up hooks and textures that can relate to Frente Cumbiero’s influence. In Cumbia del Asilo, the band travels back in time to bring back remembrances of the melody hooks from their iconic song Cumbietope and takes them to higher doses of energy and psychedelic vibes. A real treat for those fans that have been following the band closely through all these years.”

9) “Les Pythons de la Fournaise bring a refreshing dose of creole accordion and lyrics into the album with their track Toux Doux. This track brings back the sound of 60 – 70’s Sega music from the Island of The Reunion, a groove that shares a lot of the retro-soul vibe championed by Daptone Records, only that within a much more tropical atmosphere. In this case, the slow tempo and the accordion make this Indian Ocean tropical funk feel more in tune with cumbia and many of the Latin music references of this album. This is a great feature because it will help the listener to connect the music from this far-off Island off the coast of Madagascar back to Mexico or Colombia and serve as an excuse to open up the curiosity to explore deeper about the past and modern musical connections between both places.”

10) “Before getting to the end of the album, Colombia’s Romperayo delivers El Ritmo de Chico. This is a song in which he transports his quirky cumbia grooves to a reggae world by laying down a sunny guitar offbeat comping. Same as happened with Nico Mauskovic’s track at the start of the album, in this one Romperayo uses a cumbia loop to create a musical journey where guitar melodies and synths exchange parts of all kinds of feel-good melodies. Beyond the joyful play of melodies, Romperayo’s craft as a drummer makes listening to the cumbia drum loops an experience of its own, revealing all kinds of subtle variations that give an extra dynamic to it. If, when talking about Graham Mushnik track we mentioned it felt as if one was sitting at night on the beach, Romperayo transports us to the end of a movie shot in the Caribbean, watching the sunset with a Mojito on one hand and with a “mission accomplished” smile on the face.”

11) “To close the album, Malphino arrives with a track crafted specifically for this project called Ají de Malphino. As it’s common for this band, the rhythm section is anchored heavily on cumbia sonidera references; a crisp guacharaca, a pounding bass, Celso Piña’s accordion melodies, and even some sonidero shout outs. However, this is just a groove that serves as the starting point for the band to go off on happiness, putting into the pot all kinds of melodies that draw the cumbia vibe of the song out of its Latin urban context and closer into the Caribbean. As the song moves forward and the musicians feel looser into the jam we experience how the melodies coming from their guitars, vibraphones and keys seem closer and closer to calypso and Hawaiian music.”

Coco María is a self-described ‘selectora’ and currently the only resident Latin DJ on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM radio station. Her 11 track selection resembles some of the playlists on her CLub Coco radio show, and having seen all the artists on the compilation perform live, except La Perla, the selection aims to replicate their energy. The mission is also to demystify Latin music and educate listeners about a myriad of Afro rooted styles from Brazil, South and Central America, the Caribbean and beyond.

Having DJ’ed for Questlove as part of Blackstreamlive, Coco María’s Analog Journal DJ mix has racked up over a quarter of a million views and she’s performed at festivals around the world including Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival and Dekmantel.

Worldwide Festival.

Originally from Salttio, a city close to Monterrey, Coco became interested in radio from a young age. She began her studies in teaching but left Mexico in 2009 and moved to London as a student. Attending cumbia parties in Clapton and exploring the Latin scene (Movimientos), in London the lack of Latin music was conspicuous and so pioneers like Cal Jader were inspirational for Coco. She left for Berlin in 2013, the year she visited Mexico City on her first official record shopping trip.

Coco has moved from online digging, to trips to vinyl excavation in Latin America – feasting back in the day on Blogspot.com and endless downloadable archives, overdosing on Fela Kuti, Afrobeat and the dusty corners of the Latin music spectrum – and now searching through dusty collections for the next unearthed gem.

“In a festival maze of endless options, there is only one place I’m searching for…it´s Club Coco. Mysterious sounds, hypnotic rhythms. An exotic soundbox and plenty of space to dance!” says Gilles Peterson.

Coco Club tracklist:

Artist – Title
Country // Genre

  1. Nico Mauskovic – A big brain
    Netherlands // Cumbia
  2. La Perla – Guayabo
    Colombia // Gaita
  3. Meridian Brothers & Grupo Renacimiento – Bomba atómica
    Colombia // psychedelic cumbia
  4. Graham Mushnik – Octopus Dance
    France // cocktail cumbia from the 70´s
  5. La Redada – Calla Boca
    Mexico // psychedelic latin soul
  6. Alex Figueira & A. Bechan – Moerarie Morei Atjara
    Venezuela & Netherlands // traditional hindostan (suriname)/ cumbia
  7. Coco Maria // Me veo volar
    Mexico, Ghana, Netherlands // Mexican Kraut Jazz
  8. Frente Cumbiero – Cumbia del Asilo
    Colombia // Cumbia
  9. Les Pythons de la Fournaise – Tout Doux (bass version)
    France, Le Reunion // Sega
  10. Romperayo – El ritmo de Chico
    Colombia // Cumbia/caribbean
  11. Malphino – Ají de Malphino
    Planet Earth via UK // Cumbia inspired by Mexican Sonideros

Check out more from Pablo Borchi:

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