latin . african . world


Genre pick of the week Cover of Gipsy Rhumba - The Original Rhythm Of Gipsy Rhumba In Spain 1965-74 by Various Artists.
Soul Jazz Records’ new release is the first album ever outside of Spain to focus on the history of Gipsy Rhumba, one of the most interesting musical culture clashes, first taking place in the early 1960s.

In the Catalan region of Spain gipsies, primarily known as the creators of flamenco, came up with a fascinating hybrid style - Gipsy rhumba - which blended together Latin and rhumba music of Cuba and the Caribbean together with their own flamenco, as well as the emerging rock & roll from America.

As well as a musical overview of this unique art form, the release comes with extensive contextual notes (in English and Spanish) and the photography of Jacques Leonard, who documented gipsy life in the 1960s, creating one of the most important records of their unique world in the 20th century.

At the end of 19th century, gipsies who settled in Southern Spain took hold of flamenco, defined as the ‘Andalusian gipsy’ art. But it was out of the barrios of Barcelona in the North that a new genre appeared in 1963: the Catalan rhumba. A crossroads between flamenco, Caribbean music and rock & roll, Catalan gipsies developed a new way of playing flamenco guitar known as the ‘ventilador’, a technique that combined the strumming of guitar strings whilst the palms of the hand drummed the rhythm on the body of the guitar. The guitar, the handclaps and certain songs originating from the Caribbean give birth to this new style.

The Catalan rhumba built its repertoire on Caribbean songs, especially from Cuba and Puerto Rico, but also from New York. However, its true value is how the essence of these songs were used to build a new style, often with just a guitar and some handclaps.

In the 1970s a new generation of gipsy rhumba emerged, as the scene was enriched by a variety of styles, with keyboards, electric guitars, funky bass and wind sections appearing.

Released on their own label ESL Music, "Saudade" borrows its title from a Portuguese word meaning “a longing for something or someone that is lost, a contented melancholy, or, simply, the presence of absence.” “Saudade is the essence or feeling of true bossa nova,” explains TC man Eric Hilton, who names “those warm, soulful, melancholic vocals” as one of the elements of bossa nova that’s most alluring to him. Drawing influence from classic Brazilian performers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gal Costa, and Luis Bonfá - along with Serge Gainsbourg, Ennio Morricone, and more modern artists like electro-samba pioneer Isabelle Antena - 'Saudade' achieves its delicate yet deeply sensuous sound with the help of more than a dozen guest musicians. With each track sung by one of five female vocalists (including longtime Thievery cohort LouLou Ghelichkhani, newcomer Elin Melgarejo, Nouvelle Vague singer Karina Zeviani, Argentine chanteuse Natalia Clavier, and former Bitter:Sweet singer/songwriter Shana Halligan), the endlessly mesmerizing album also features such guests as UNKLE drummer Michael Lowery, Argentine singer / songwriter Federico Aubele, and master Brazilian percussionist Roberto Santos.

Although Thievery Corporation stay true to traditional bossa nova’s elegant fusion of samba and jazz all throughout Saudade, the album is rich with strange and wonderful flourishes that revel in the duo’s hyper-inventive tendencies. Opening with the dusky “Décollage,” Saudade glides from the smoldering and string-drenched “Quem Me Leva” to the hushed and mysterious “Sola In Citta” (an Italian-sung nod to the legendary soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, featuring Wurlitzer electric piano by Enea Diotaiuti) to the sweetly ethereal “No More Disguise” (a dreamlike piece laced with orchestral strings and bolero rhythms). With the instrumental title track serving as its gently stunning centerpiece, "Saudade" also offers the sultry and spacey “Claridad” (a swaying Latin number propelled by analog organ beats) and the French lullaby of “Le Coeur” (featuring the sublime saxophone work of Frank Mitchell, Jr.). And on the final track “Depth of My Soul,” Halligan delivers a haunting vocal performance that merges with the song’s swirling symphonic soundscape to hypnotic effect.


LP Info: Deluxe vinyl edition in hard paste-on board sleeve.

Back to top