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What I’m listening to this week: Grupo Fantasma

April 15, 2009

Sonidos Gold – 2008

I’ll readily admit that I have a love/hate relationship with music of the Latin genre. Growing up in a Mexican family, listening to Latin music also meant that you were a young kid bored out of your mind, sitting in a dank VFW hall watching the worst Tejano bands imaginable play what seems like one very long song, while your extended family whooped it up drunkenly. I’m not really a dancer, so it also meant running and hiding to avoid tipsy family members approaching you in the least rhythmic and most embarrassing ways possible. The mere presence of a Mariachi band would almost ensure that I would end up red-faced by the evening’s end.

All that being said, thankfully I’m past the point now where hearing music in Spanish activates my fight-or-flight response…not so much that I’d listen to it on a regular basis, but at least I can appreciate it now. And there’s no question that the Austin-based Grupo Fantasma is one of the best Latin bands around. Songs like those on Sonidos Gold are meant to be, and are probably best enjoyed, at an event like the one I described above, but even so, you can’t help but feel festive just listening to the disc. “El Sabio Soy Yo” and “El Desconocido” seem like standards destined for party greatness. Grupo also reaches beyond the traditional Latin fare, incorporating Afro-Cuban drumming on “(Naci de La) Rumba y Guaganco” and tributing Santana’s rock vibe in “Gimme Some”. The bottom line: even with a history like mine, you’d be hard pressed not to upper-body salsa in your car while listening to Sonidos Gold.

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