This CD represents William Cepeda's attempt to educate us in the ways and rhythms of the music of his native Puerto Rico. The music is based in the drums and rhythms brought to Puerto Rico as a consequence of the African slave trade. The melody instruments are, for the most part, limited to the voices of the lead vocalists. However, more often than not, these are used as percussion instruments as well: the vocals are dominated by call and response chants. The lead vocalist will chant a line, which is then echoed by a chorus. Occasionally the lead vocalist will sing rather than chant, but it is the chants that dominate. All the while the drums are beating out one of several rhythms. That's part of the education here: the booklet accompanying the CD names the different rhythms and describes each song by, in part, telling the listener which rhythm appears in which song. We can then learn our way around Puerto Rican music by listening carefully so that we can learn to identify the various rhythms.
Our exposure to so-called Latin music is primarily to music from Cuba and Mexico. So this disc represents an opportunity for us to learn about the music of another Latin American country. As an educational tool, the CD is excellent. Fortunately for us, the listeners, this is much more than an educational tool. While the rhythms and voices are varied, there is one constant here: the music is infectious and fun. (That spirit is carried over to My Roots & Beyond , Cepeda's Jazz disc based on the rhythms and songs of Puerto Rico.) The only thing better than listening to this CD would be to see the Grupo AfroBoricua play and to get to watch the dancers move to this music that is clearly best danced to.
Visit the Blue Jackel website (Cepeda is the featured artist this month) at http://www.bluejackel.com.
Collective Personnel: Grupo AfroBoricua: William Cepeda: musical director, conch shell, trombone, piano, vocals; Antonio Martinez: principal vocalist; Nellie Lebron: lead vocals, bass guitar; Roberto Cepeda: vocals; Hector Matos: percussion, lead vocals; Hector Calderon: percussion, vocals; Luis Cepeda: percussion; Angel Mojica: percussion; Harry Diaz: vocals (on "Verso Negro"). Additional musicians: Jose Emanuelli: background vocals; Darvel Garcia: background vocals; Chegui Ramos: background vocals; Jerry Medina: background vocals; Victor Fuentes: percussion; Felix Diaz: percussion; Jesus Cepeda: percussion; Ivonne Torres: background vocals; Vimidsa Silva: background vocals; Jose "Nuna" Calderon: background vocals, percussion; there are dancers as well.
Track Listing: Afro Boricua, Yuba Melody, Seshuque y Balance, San Tomas, El Gallo Canta, El Conde De Loiza, Amalis (No Quere Ir Ebozo), Meliton Tombe, Rule Son Da, Majestad Negra, El Doctor Guenaga, Lamento Borincano, Seis Corrido Medley, El Belen. Total time: 52:08.