Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Record Review: “Bailar En La Cueva” by Jorge Drexler

Afro-Cuban, Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Forró, Hip-Hop, Latin, Merengue, Pop, Record Reviews, Rock, Samba, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »


On his most diverse release to date, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler—best known Stateside for being the sole composer to date to win an Oscar for a non-English song—goes into various musical styles to convey his message. The title song mixes electronic and folk elements with a syncopated beat and a catchy chorus, while “Bolivia” blends forró and cumbia. A berimbau (a Brazilian instrument commonly used in capoeira meets) leads the beat.

Legendary Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso makes a cameo appearance toward two verses in Spanish with a melody that goes against the song’s entire form. “La Luna de Rasquí” is an upbeat tune with Afro-Caribbean elements that is sure to get you moving. “Universos Paralelos” is arguably the most inventive track–it begins with an easygoing samba-like feel and the vocals of Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux (who seems to be all over Latin pop lately) comes almost out of nowhere to give her bit on the topic of star-crossed lovers. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Cuatro Tigres” by Chicha Libre

Alt-Rock, Chicha, Cumbia, Latin, Pop, Record Reviews, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »


Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre started out playing covers of obscure psychedelic songs from Peru, and on this four-song EP they come full circle with a collection of inventive takes on pop tunes reimagined into the chichi format, starting with a very personal take on the “Simpsons” that expands on the TV version by adding some improvisation and a more danceable beat. They recreate Love’s classically inspired “Alone Again Or,” as a song innovated by featuring a mariachi band in the middle section, something quite uncommon in the late sixties. They also pay tribute with “Guns of Brixton” and also include “Chicha Rica,” a song that I could not trace but I am sure comes from bandleader Olivier Conan’s treasure trove. Read the rest of this entry »

Tropicalismo: Chicha Libre takes Peruvian Psychedelics To New Heights

Chicha, Experimental, Folk, Folk-rock, Folktronica, Latin, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »

By Ernest Barteldes

The latest release from Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre is a feast to the eyes even before it reaches your ears. The words “Canibalismo” shout out in bright yellow, white and red letters with a background of rainforest vegetation–a clear reference to the late 1960s tropicalismo movement that started in Brazil as a response to the psychedelics of America and Europe during that time.

Asked about the cover, French-born Olivier Conan (who also co-owns Barbès, an alternative performance space in Brooklyn, NY) says that the reference was intentional. “We meant to reference Tropicalia,” he says over an e-mail interview. “The album is named ‘Canibalismo’ after Oswald de Andrade’s autophagous manifesto, which was Tropicalias’ manifesto—and while the graphic style wasn’t derivative, it does evoke that era.” Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Red Hot + Rio 2”

Latin, Record Reviews, Rock, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »


In 1996, a number of American and world artists including Maxwell, George Michael, Sting, Caetano Veloso and Marisa Monte collaborated in the creation of  “Red Hot and Rio,” a landmark compilation that turned out to be one of the most successful albums of the series of recordings that helps raise funds for AIDS awareness and research. The album celebrated bossa-nova era composers like Edu Lobo, Antonio Carlos Jobim and their contemporaries with new renditions of their classic tunes plus a handful of new songs.

A decade and a half later, the Red Hot Organization called on some of today’s top independent singers and songwriters for “Red Hot and Rio II,” which follows up on that first disc by looking at the music from yet another generation of Brazilian music—the highly political, short-lived but very influential Tropicalismo, a movement that responded both to the psychedelics in the Northern Hemisphere and the crushing military dictatorship that took over the country in 1964. Read the rest of this entry »