Tropical Diaspora #1

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Tropical Diaspora® Records compilation volume #1 is available and will be released in a limited edition for vinyl and cassette. This record is featuring 9 independent bands from all over the world with a total of 10 tracks. The record is transparent and contain a  inner sleeve with the song lyrics plus a poster. This record is a powerful network of remembrances. It gives voice to the daughters and sons of the slave trade. It is testimony of how African slaves kept their cultures and history alive giving birth to one of the most amazing cultural experiments of humankind.

The Tree of Forgetfulness and the Door of No Return

We are very happy to announce our first compilation on vinyl coming out this autumn. The Volume 1 introduces many independent bands and artists with strong social messages and songs that make people think and dance.

This socially responsible dancefloor compilation starts with the words of Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, the shaman and spokesperson of the Yanomami natives in today’s Brazil. His words are crucial to understand the challenges we are facing and how much we still have to learn from those people. It ends with a song dedicated to Bety Cariño, a social activist from Oaxaca brutally murdered by the colonial powers and their hitmen.

Like so many other things in the small universe of Tropical Diaspora® Records this compilation album is the result of travels and personal connections. In fact, its meaning conveys just that: the creation of human relations based on love and care, understanding, respect and passionate discussions around the topics that move us. Djs Garrincha and Dr. Sócrates do exactly this with a case full of records traveling across the borders of Europe and the Americas. Dj Garrincha’s trips have taken him to meet artists and ignite relations that are meant to last. It can be Chicago, São Paulo, Medellin, Berlin, Barcelona, Olinda or San Juan. We are committed to add new Diaspora cities into our web of places and people to care about. And this precisely describes how we experience displacement and diaspora communities. They help us not only to produce music but also to build our own identity as human beings and, of course, as record label too. We care about displacement and the communities that grow from it.

The record is the product of years of travels and encounters.

The story begins with Alejandro Ayala aka King Hippo who asked me (Dj Garrincha) a favor. He is a DJ, producer, record collector and friend in Chicago. The next time I be in São Paulo, my home town, I should bring to him a very special record of Ney Mattogrosso. I found the record in the shop of Mr. Luiz Calanca, Baratos Afins. The story of this encounter was already told, because it came to be crucial for other of our releases, the live LP of Renato Gama, Olhos Negros Vivo. Some months later, as I brought several copies of Renato Gama’s record to Luiz Calanca, I met the journalist Daniel Vaughan. We chatted about Renato’s release and his music, the label and other issues, as he asked me Do you know Höröya?

Griot Xamã, the first song of the compilation, consists of two read statements. It begins with a text of André Piruka, the band leader of Höröya, and ends with the speech of the Yanomami Pajé. Höröya is an amazing band from São Paulo composed by Brazilian and African musicians, mainly from West Africa. It represents the acknowledgment of a recent Afro Diaspora that blends with Brazilian Afro traditions. Two worlds are here re-united in the powerful drums (djembe, atabaque, dunduns or cuica) and the Mandeng culture.

From Luiz Calanca to André Piruka through Renato Gama. André creates an Afro Diaspora in São Paulo with a new generation of displaced Africans living in the largest concrete jungle of South America, which is the largest Diaspora city as well.

Having planed a trip to Medellín we activate our web of connections. This time the DJ and producer from São Paulo Stefanis Caiaffo gave us a tip: ask Mario Galeano, the well-known Colombian musician, composer and producer. In Medellín we should contact DJ Dmoe. Dmoe invited me to a live vinyl set at his place called Beatz En Casa. There, I had the immense pleasure to meet Aboganster and Severina, the producers of the most important radio show for Afro-Caribbean music and Diaspora culture hosted by the salsa radio station Latina Stereo of Medellín. We recorded a show for La Vinilada, an event about vinyl records culture. Then, they asked: Do you know the Madrid based La Rueda?

The end of the year came and it was time to organize our first Tropical Diaspora in Madrid. For the live show we had La Rueda, bringing musicians and performers, and creating and amazing atmosphere completed with our DJ set. La Rueda became since then part of this compilation.

La Rueda is a band of Colombian emigrants living in Madrid who are worthy representatives of the complexities of the Colombian musical universe. We have chosen El Rurrú because of the strong use of Gaitas (pipes) and Tambores (drums) from the Colombian Caribbean cost, masterfully mixing African and Native roots with some Spanish influences. If La Rueda heats up the dancefloor, don’t worry, an opportunity to take an almost transcendental break comes just in time.

Sometimes happiness takes the simplest way. In this case an e-mail from a musician who thought that his music would fit in our concept as label. We meet him and carefully listen to his compositions. We were amazed not just by the quality of his music: we realized how close we are, how Paulo Cedraz, the brain and soul of Bantunagojêje, was making the music of Tropical Diaspora before even we knew about each other. Later we all hung out with Renato and Ronaldo Gama and Léo Carvalho, from Renato’s band, and that encounter would give way to other projects with Menina Productora, our partners in Brazil. But this is another story.

Bantunagojêje is many things, and all are named there. It comes from Salvador (Bahia/Brazil), but it could be from West Africa: it is a matter of displacement or Diaspora, as we would say. Sereno is a song of acknowledgment and respect, and it is dedicated to all caretakers, the anonymous heroes of daily life. The intensity of its music means to make a stand against banality and spoliation. Coming from Salvador da Bahia, from the heart of the African culture in the Americas, Paulo Cedraz’ deep connection with the Afro-Brazilian musical world re-writes the meaning of the world Afro and transcends the efforts of those who amazed by the achievements of Afrobeat have only been able to scratch the surface of Africa without fully understand it.

In the early days, Tropical Diaspora used to host a monthly party in Yaam, a place for Afro-Diaspora culture in Berlin. Although today its path is more or less erratic losing some of its identity, back then we invited a project from Brazil called Brazilian Caravan – The first international showcase of Pernambuco music. The project brought 3 bands: Eta Carinae, Rivotrill and Fim De Feira, together with about 20 people among musicians and technicians. They went to Madrid, Berlin, Helsinki, Oslo, Vigo, Porto, London, Amsterdam and Paris. The project was funded by the democratic government of Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rouseff. Since then, we never lost contact with the people from Recife and Olinda, the twin cities of Pernambuco, and specially with Sanzio Rafael, one of the musicians of that Caravan. His band Ska Maria Pastora made its way into the compilation.

Fanfarra Dominicana is frevo, a musical style that it said to be originated in the Carnival and the movements of the capoeira dancers. The harmonies of Frevo make here their way into Jamaican music.

One our best contacts in Chicago is a Dj collective and label called Sonorama. The guys from Sonorama are part of the Mexican Diaspora community of Pilsen, a district in the lower west side. Charly, Marlow and Sr. Eddy are the virtuosos of the Latino scene on vinyl, as DJs, radio hosts and record collectors. Our connection to Sonorama goes back to our first record, 2 by La Dama Blanche. Regina Martinez, an artist and DJ from St. Louis but living in Chicago bought a copy and made the first contact with the guys of Sonorama. They invited us to their radio shows in Chicago streaming via Lumpen Radio or iOS App. Then, the question came again: Hey Garrincha, do you know El Santo Golpe?

The Forgetfulness side ends with El Santo Golpe from Riverside, California. Fun and joy literally explode in El Ladrón, a song that represents very well all what El Santo Golpe is about. West-African drums combine with Son Jarocho and Garifuna music. Here, we exultantly assist to the fusion of Native, African and Spanish musical elements. If the Latin rhythms performed by El Santo Golpe have infected your soul then you only have to turn the record over.

Surfing the net is another way to make contacts. We got lucky. Perhaps it was during a cold winter, who knows. It began as a friendship in the usual social networks. The bond was strong enough to exchange some e-mails and the musical passion, of course. The journalist, composer and musician based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Augustín Criollo Oquero was a friend of Tropical Diaspora even before the label began its journey. Proof that a long-distance relationship can last, Bando, the band of Augustín Criollo, was one of the first we thought to put on a vinyl record. Now we have it here, in our first compilation opening the No-Return side.

Did you think that afro-latin-rock is possible? Well, you have to listen to the deep groove of the electric guitar of the Puerto Ricans of Bando. Cangrejo is a nostalgic song about the struggling love between people who are doomed to fail.

Andi Fernandez aka DJ Andy Loop was one of our first friends in Berlin. At the time when the city was building a new identity, the subculture was blooming as well as many illegal bars where we used to djing. In those dirty basements we met Andy. As he went back to Barcelona he introduced us to the musicians of Super Spanish Combo, who were touring Europe with their street popular politically conscious latin groove. We even hosted an event with them at Yaam. Today, Super Spanish Combo, with whom we have released a 45 rpm, has been somehow transformed into Los Made in Barcelona, and Carles Estruch is a centerpiece of the whole project. Carles has been instrumental in other of our singles, that of Dr. Nativo. His project with Los Made perfectly fits in our concept: a street band made by immigrants fighting with music against colonialism and prejudice in times of intolerance and ignorance.

Los Made in Barcelona is a Latin combo from many different places. Their music is rooted in the alleys and streets of Barcelona. The song We Are Street bears that urban flavor beyond stereotypes. It speaks of social struggles in a way that pierces your heart.

The time of vacation is a good moment for reflection. We became tired of the path taken by the main stream Afrobeat, also in Brazil. Always the same arrangements and a kind of arrogance out of place. So, we were searching for Fela Kuti in the traditions of the Norh-East. Dj Garrincha went back to Olinda and met Jedson Nobre, the leader of Abeokuta. We already had contact via e-mail and the lead trombone of Ska Maria Pastora, Deco Santos aka Deco Trombone, plays in Abeokuta too.

With Abeokuta from Recife (Pernambuco/Brazil) we go straight into the Afrobeat. Inspired by Fela Kuti –Abeokuta was his place of birth– the band adds to the Nigerian afrobeat the popular afro-beat found in Pernambuco, so it is Mr.Job. You need to listen to what happens with the drums taken the lead, as they are accompanied by the horns, in order to understand what means to play Afrobeat today. After Abeokuta, Höröya makes its contribution again with Mandin’Groove, an infecting song in which the West-African percussion takes over the dancefloor.

Last summer in Berlin we got an invitation. Jero and Vicky, the leaders of La Fanfarria del Capitán, our second LP release, told us that we should curate the sound in an event in the periphery of Berlin. This was a typical German garden colony in a place not very welcoming. Today, these colonies are full of resentful Germans who hide their fears among flags and dubious slogans. As the event began a couple singing caught our attention. Aline and Josué were singing about a woman, a very special woman indeed. We cannot explain the immense satisfaction that has caused us to put the music of Riosentí in the compilation.

The record ends with Riosentí, a duo of musical nomads from Mexico and Argentina. They are the authors of Canción para Cariño, dedicated to the social leader from Oaxaca Bety Cariño. Here, Riosentí has been able to blend the best of protest songs with traditional rhythms and a modern urban groove. It is a cry, but never in vain.