Tricky one, this blog. The challenge is how to write about a female performer who blew everyone in the venue away without turning the blog into a piece of voyeuristic male drooling. I suppose the answer is to write about the music.
I recently had the the pleasure of receiving a link to the latest single from local group La Mákina del Karibe. If you have any grasp of Spanish, you’ll spot that they have very punk-ily replaced the “C”s and the “Q”s in their name with “K”. That marks them out as linguistic rebels, fellow travellers with Barcelona squatters, graffiti artists and opponents everywhere of the Spanish Royal Academy. “Why?” you might ask. I’m not quite sure, but there’s a general sense of unhingedness with La Makina, things turned upside down in a frenetic search for a new beat. I got their album “14 Chankletazos Terapéuticos” last year (don’t overlook the provocative “K”). A “chancletazo” is a whack from a “chancleta”, a sandal or a slipper. So in translation the album title is basically “14 Therapeutic Slipperings”. Suck it up, this is good for you. The album artwork is fabulous. There’s not a “C” in sight that hasn’t been swapped for a “K”, and there’s a whole faux encyclopaedia entry quoted that explains that the group is from “Champetesburgo”. Yeah, they’re taking the piss out of “St. Petersburg”, but the Colombian twist on it is the mash up of the name with “Champeta”. That is a musical genre from the Caribbean coast, centred on Cartagena, which is a very very close relation to the sort of guitar-based African music that first came to my attention when John Peel began playing the Bhundu Boys. The guitar sparkles through this style of music, and the Makina do the same. The album starts off on a blinder and then, inevitably, slows a little with more variety in the pacing of the songs. There’s an absolute cracker of a slow number that sounds like it should have been first recorded about a hundred years as a southern gospel song, revamped by the Makina with steel drums and African guitars (but no, it’s their song, “Ke Pasó”).
Anyway, the single is a progression from the album. “Vuelve… si quieres!” is a tease (“Come back… if you want to!”), just like the performance of the rather astonishing Monica Castillo. This tall, beautiful woman strides out on stage and takes control of the gig like she was born to be in front of a microphone. She pulls the shoulder of her blouse down and drives the blokes wild with a glimpse of what is underneath. She pouts, laughs, points, leaps, wriggles, and above all, sings her guts out. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be talking about the music. Well, the single is great, with the madness of Richie Arnedo, with the talking bits, in the background, and the guitar stomping its way across the whole song, while the bass just doesn’t stop insisting you get up and dance. There’s even accordions, and a spacey keyboard break in the middle. It might be a change down in gear from the first album, but the melody doesn´t let up. Give it a whirl. And Monica, well, believe me, she has rockstar potential. Fernando couldn't help himself. He had to ask for a photo as she walked past us on the way out.
Check out the single here:
And here's a taste of what happens on stage: