Celebrating the Music of Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe & Martinique, and Mexico

With the many recent natural disasters in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, the French Antilles, Dominica, Mexico, and Bangladesh, one might think we were witnessing something out of the Book of Revelations in the New Testament. These places and their people have been in my thoughts, and on this week’s show, I simply want to feature the music—often joyous, buoyant, and sometimes sad—from some of these affected areas. Please help with donations if you can.

We’ll begin with three artists from Puerto Rico. The most famous of the three—pianist/bandleader/composer Eddie Palmieri—plays his song “Puerto Rico” about the beauty of the island and its people. The next song by the Latin dance music group Son Boricua celebrates Puerto Rico as well as the great historical figures of Latin America—Simon Bolivar, José Marti, San Martin. Boricua, by the way, is an old synonym for Puerto Rican. Third in this first set comes from the great Puerto Rican singer, Cheo Feliciano, who sadly died in Puerto Rico in a car accident a few years ago.  

Next we turn to the French Antilles islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which were, like the neighboring island of Dominica, decimated by Hurricane Maria. Jocelyne Beroard is best known as the lead singer of the top Antillean zouk music group Kassav, and later recorded several best sellers as solo artist. Zouk is a popular carnival-style music of Martinique and Guadeloupe that was originally inspired by the “cadence-calypso” music of neighboring Dominica. Zouk is dance party music; the word actually means “festival.”

We also hear the late singer Édith Lefel from Martinique, who died at a young age in the prime of her life and career. The next song comes from the top Martinican band Malavoi, which churned out hit after hit in the French Caribbean in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  

We head next to Mexico with another trio of songs. It’s eerie that the recent earthquake came 32 years to the day of the huge 8.1 magnitude earthquake in 1985. (Click here for information on how to help victims of the earthquake.) First up is the gorgeous sound of Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, which regaled Angelenos here for many years before Cano’s death in 2014. Then we hear an old Mexican bolero from 1943 called “Humanidad” (Humanity) from singer Fernando Rosas, from a collection of boleros. We close the set with one of the most popular contemporary Mexican bands, Los Tigres del Norte, with “El Gato Felix” (Felix the Cat).

I find the last two songs moving and inspiring, though I must say there is no song that I can think of that would capture my feelings after last Sunday’s carnage in Las Vegas. We hear Bobby McFerrin’s vocal version of Horace Silver’s song “Peace,” followed by James Taylor’s “Secret O’Life” from a KCRW live session recorded years ago.


1. Eddie Palmieri / “Puerto Rico” / Sentido / Envida/Musical Productions
2. Son Boricua / “Buen Borincano” / Son Boricua / Caiman
3. Cheo Feliciano / “Lindo Yambú” / Una Voz…Mil Recuerdos / RMM Records
4. Jocelyne Beroard / “Kakini” / Milans / Columbia
5. Edith Lefel / “Méci” / Méci / Sonodisc/Kreyol Music, Inc.
6. Malavoi / “Kase ko” / She She / Declic/Tinder
7. Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano / “Flor de Azalea” / Amor, Dolor y Lagrimas: Música Ranchera / Smithsonian Folkways
8. Fernando Rosas / ” Humanidad” / El Bolero Mexicano: Humanidad / Trikont/Iris Music
9. Los Tigres Del Norte / “El Gato Felix” / Corridos Prohibidos / Fonovisa
10. Bobby McFerrin / “Peace” / Bobby McFerrin / Elektra/Nonesuch
11. James Taylor / “Secret O’Life” / Rare on Air Vol. 3 / Mammoth Records





Tom Schnabel