Dance clubs and DJs have always been fast to jump on new musical trends. DJs all over the world have been using the sounds of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Arabia in their mash-ups for decades.
Mexico City’s Camilo Lara, who records as Mexican Institute of Sound, blends salsa, Colombia’s cumbia, Norteño, hip hop and more into the thumping cocktail he serves up on Piñata (Nacional). The overall vibe is relaxed, but the array of sounds is dizzying. “Para No Vivir Desesperado” sounds like cumbia coming from the speakers of a flying saucer, while “A Girl Like You” sounds like the Shirelles visiting a Mexican disco in the Sahara.
Ali Farka Touré was one of Africa’s most distinctive guitar players; his traditional “blues” music from Mali won him a Grammy for best World Music Album in 1994. His son Vieux Farka Touré is also an amazing player, but more eclectic in his approach, dropping reggae, rock, jazz and Congolese rumba into his music. His eponymous debut, released earlier this year, is worth picking up, as is “Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako” (Modiba), reinventions of Touré’s music by noted club DJs. San Francisco’s Cheb I Sabbah stirs Touré’s vocals into a frothy blend of house and Arab beats, while Karshe Kale takes a more peaceful approach, letting Touré’s guitar drift through a vast expanse of soothing ambient sound.
If you think punk rockers invented thrashing tempos, you’ve never heard the frenetic Romanian Gypsy beat of Fanfare Cioca?rlia. This big brass band has been expanding its cultural and rhythmic palette thanks to its nonstop international touring. On “Queens and Kings”(Asphalt Tango) the group breaks new ground for Gypsy music. The most extreme example is the reinvention of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” as a Gypsy two-step for the film “Borat,” but it’s also playing tangos, hip-hop and Bo Diddley beats in addition to the supersonic bounce of tunes such as “Ibrahim” and “Mig Mig.” The feverish tempos and stunning arrangements are like nothing you’ve ever heard.
Millions of consumers have been introduced to international sounds by Putumayo’s collections of easy-listening music. “World Hits” compiles some of the most influential sounds of the last 40 years into one collection. Tracks include Mongo Santamaria’s “Watermelon Man” from 1963; Johnny Clegg’s worldwide smash from 1982, “Scatterlings of Africa”; “Em’ma” from Touré Kunda, one of the first Senegalese bands to ever tour the U.S.; and “Bamboleo,” the mega-hit that introduced the world to the Gipsy Kings.