Los Angeles is probably the most poly-rhythmic city in the US. The sheer number of bands based here, combined with the wide variety of backgrounds LA’s musicians embody, ensures our fair city tops every other choice, from NYC to Nashville, Austin or Miami. While there are plenty of Pan-Asian, Pan-African and good old fashioned home-grown flavors (from jazz to punk to Native American sounds) to be found here, there is no doubt that the Pan-Latin sound is especially prevalent throughout LA’s music community. Now, finally, the local collective Buyepongo, one of LA’s favorite local proponents of mashing-up various Latin American styles into a whole new thing, are releasing their debut album, nicely capturing their infectious vibe to which those who have seen their energetic live act can fully attest.
Todo Mundo comes, in part, from a life-changing trip through Central America founding vocalist and percussionist Edgar “Meshlee” Modesto made a number of years back. Inspired by the Afro-Caribbean elements of the Garifuna region of Belize and Guatemala, Modesto reconfigured the band and added much of what he heard into the group’s already funky mix of hip-hop, punk and jazz. The result is a fusion that is fresh, dynamic and quintessentially LA. Dedicated to no one particular Latin tradition, the album bounces from cumbia to merengue to Afro-funk, informed as much by the various band members’ own ethnic roots and instincts as is does any specific intention. Even the tempos vary widely, with some songs approaching balladry, lending a pleasantly unexpected emotional core to the whole record.
You don’t have to be a certified ethnomusicologist to understand why Los Angeles is the perfect place from which an album like Todo Mundo would have emerged. And it only takes one listen to understand why Angelinos are happy to call Buyepongo one of our own as well.
-Eric J. Lawrence