This week’s Rhythm Planet show is all about heroes. Some of these artists are musical giants you’ll recognize: Miriam Makeba, Mahalia Jackson, Tito Puente, and Stevie Wonder; others you might not know: Wanda Sá, Cariocas Farney Club. There are also mentions of beloved political icons of post-Colonial Africa: Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Che Guevara.
Tropical music, the genre that comprises Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Colombian music, is especially replete with songs where one artist names another artist who was an inspiration or muse. This program celebrates that.
We begin with a short song by Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi, whom I love and was fortunate enough to interview a few years ago. Here she praises Stevie Wonder, Malian superstar Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan and others she loves.
The world is a small place for music lovers, isn’t it? Or is it that music travels everywhere? The first Cuban 78 RPM records came to West Africa by way of cruise ships in the 1950s. Now we have the internet to share the world’s musical bounty.
We continue with a 1970 song by Congolese singer-songwriter Franklin Boukaka, titled, “Les Immortels” (The Immortals), where he praises political figures who inspired Congo’s struggle for independence from Belgium: Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically-elected president of the newly independent Congo, who was assassinated by the Belgians and the C.I.A. in January, 1961; Che Guevara is mentioned; Malcolm X, the liberation theologian (like Pope Francis); Camilo Torres; and other Congolese who fought for independence. Cuba had a huge influence in Africa. If Castro and Che could throw off the yoke of imperialism and break free, so could the various African countries that had long been colonized by the Europeans.
The lively band, Africando, is next, comprised of Senegalese singers like Pop Seck, as well as a crack band of Puerto Rican musicians based in New York City. They have long been a favorite on dance floors, both in America, Puerto Rico, Kinshasha and Dakar. The song names African, Puerto Rican, and Cuban musical icons.
Next we get a nice track from Brazilian singer Rosalia de Souza. “Bossa 50,” which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the birth of bossa nova (new beat), she mentions all the big players: Carlos Antonio Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Robert Menescal, Marcos Valle, Wanda Sá, João Gilberto, João Donato, Oscar (Castro-Neves), Baden Powell, the Cariocas Farney Club, a veritable catalogue of bossa nova innovators in its glory days from 1959 through the mid-1960s.
The next four selections feature Afro-Cuban superstars naming their own musical inspirations: Celia Cruz and Tito Puente pay homage to the great Cuban singer, Beny Moré. Puerto Rican bands, Son Boricua and El Gran Combo, sing praises to their big influences. Finally, the late Cuban percussionist and singer, Patato Valdes, concludes this week’s Rhythm Planet playlist with a song dedicated to Eddie Palmieri and other Latin pianists that he loves.
See how many names you can discern while listening! Hope you enjoy this show.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 09/25/15
- Coco Mbassi / “Bebotedi” / Sisea / Tropical Music
- Franklin Boukaka / “Les Immortels” / 30 Ans de Musique Africaine / Sonodisc
- Africando / “Trovador” / Trovador / Stern’s
- Rosalia de Souza / “Bossa 50” / D’Improvviso / Schema
- Celia Cruz & Tito Puente / “Rumberos de Ayer” / Homenaje a Beny More / Fania
- Son Boricua / “Campanero 2004” / Fabulosos 70s / Cobo
- El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico / “No Hay Cama Pa’ Tanta Gente” / 25th Anniversary 1962–1987 / Combo
- Patato Valdes / “A Los Pianistas” / Masterpiece / Messidor