Timba Goodness from Sweden !?!

 Playlist for September 2015

Song (iTunes)




Somos Calle Real – Calle Real  Calle Real Timba Sweden
Pesadilla (feat. Daniel Baro) – Petter el Chocolate  Petter el Chocolate Timba Sweden
Mambo Con Puente (Remastered) – Tito Puente  Tito Puente  Mambo USA
El Mismo Sol (Salsa Version) – Single – Croma Latina  Croma Latina Salsa Italy
Salsa & Choque (feat. Ñejo) – ChocQuibTown  ChocQuibTown  Salsa Choke  Colombia
Abrazame (feat. Anthony Santos) – Elvyn Soto  Anthony Santos, Elvyn Soto Bachata  D. Republic
Te Vas – Single – Grupo Extra  Grupo Extra Bachata D. Republic
Bésame Siempre – Henry Santos  Henry Santos Bachata USA
A Que Te Pego Mi Mania – Grupo Mania  Grupo Mania  Merengue D. Republic
Rico Boogaloo – Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers Boogaloo USA

Calle Real New Album

Calle Real is back… For Real

Europe is not the first place people think of when the topic of Salsa comes up and especially the topic of Cuban Salsa or Timba.  The reality is that there is a vibrant Latin music and dance scene on the other side of the Atlantic.  This is attested to by the number of music and dance festivals held throughout the continent, the large number of Latin bands and artists that frequently tour there as well as the number of talented bands that are native to Europe.  One such band has been a favourite of mine since I first got into Latin music, the Stockholm based Calle Real.  Not only does Calle Real make fantastic music but they are one of the few bands outside of the Americas who make Timba that actually sounds like Timba.  There are a number of great European based Salsa/Timba bands but, in my opinion, many of them fall short when it comes to delivering Latin music that sounds ‘authentic’.   Timba is a rare beast; beautifully melodic, highly energetic and a lot of fun to dance to but also very dynamic and full of multiple rhythms, which can be overwhelming and even confusing to the uninitiated.   Because of this some would argue that only Cuban musicians who have studied music on the island and have grown up surrounded by Afro-Cuban culture can compose and perform genuine Timba.  Calle Real is the type of band that would prove those people wrong.   Granted they have one Cuban member, Rickard Valdés son of the great Cuban piano player Bebo Valdés.  However, the rest of the 12 members come from other parts of the globe and all of them grew up in Sweden.   Despite their mostly non-latin background, Calle Real is without a doubt the best Timba band in Europe.

Calle Real is, hands down, the most explosive salsa/timba band to ever come out of Europe. They take command as the leaders of the globalization of salsa/timba music, and their vision for their music has revolutionized the genre itself.” DJ Melao (Miami)

In addition to making great Timba, what really sets Calle Real apart is their ability to mix non-Latin elements into their music without losing the Cuban style.   That may help to explain why in Sweden their audience is not limited to Latin music connoisseurs and dancers but also includes people who are normally drawn to other genres such as hip hop.   In reference to this phenomenon the band’s founder Patricio Sobrado said “Of course we are influenced by Charanga Habanera, Michel Maza, Pupy, Los Van Van, Paulito, Manolito, Manolín and the likes since we like to listen to them, but being raised over here we have other influences as well. We are glad people think we play Timba ’cause that’s one of our influences we respect, but …our sound comes from having a need to express ourselves musically, and we use the Cuban music style to do it.”

That quote about “having other influences” wasn’t true though when the band first got started back in 1999 with 3 members and a repertoire devoted to traditional music similar to what had been popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club.  Thankfully, the band moved past this ‘copy-cat’ stage, got some more members and changed their focus to Timba.   By 2003 they were making a name for themselves in Sweden and around Europe and by 2006 they were ready to record a debut album – Con Fuerza (released by a hip hop label of all things).  Their second album, Me Lo Gane, followed shortly there after in 2009.  Both of these are fantastic and packed with a number of highly dancable tracks.  Con Fuerza was even nominated for a Latin Grammy for “Best Salsa Album of the Year” and picked up the title of  “Best Album” and “Best New Artist” from the popular Cuban music website FiestaCubana.net.  And then for 6 years nothing.  The band was touring and such but no new material was being made or at least it wasn’t been recorded.  That’s about to change.  Calle Real’s Facebook page has had a number of posts over the last few months with teasers of new material and just a couple of weeks ago at Stockholm Kulturfestival the band performed a few new tracks.  The word on the street is a new album entitled ‘Dime Que’, will drop later this Fall.

That is still a few weeks away so for those of you who can’t wait that long the next best thing might be the latest offering from Petter el Chocolate Linde.  Linde, a trumpet player who has performed not only with Calle Real but also with the Soneros All Stars has just released his first material as a solo artist.  I’ve included one of them , Pesadilla, in this month’s play list – definitely worth checking out.  Regardless, new Calle Real music is coming soon and if we’re lucky the next blog post may even include a track or two from it.

Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email



Cover Me in Latin

November Playlist






No Woman, No Cry

No Woman No Cry (Salsa Version) - Lovely Reprises by K'lid

 Merengada Salsa England
Unchained Melody Unchained Melody - Salsa - Unchained Melody - Salsa - Single  Germán Silva Salsa Australia
Jugando Super Mario Bros Jugando Super Mario Bros - Me Lo Gané  Calle Real Salsa Swedan
La Pantera Mambo La Pantera Mambo - La-33  LA 33 Salsa Colombia
You Rock My World  Berna Jam Salsa USA/Cuba
Hello Hello (Album Version) - Hello (Album Version) - Single  Berto La Voz Bachata Puerto Rico
Hoy Lo Que Quiero Eres Tu Hoy Lo Que Quiero Eres Tu - I Love Bachata 2012 (14 Bachata Hits) Grupo Rush Bachata Puerto Rico
Stand By Me Stand by Me - Prince Royce  Prince Royce Bachata USA
Una Vaina Loca Una Vaina Loca (feat. El Potro) - La Musica del Futuro Reloaded (The Chosen Few Edition) Fuego Merengue Dominican Rep/Jamaica
Clocks Clocks - Rhythms del Mundo Cuba  Coldplay Cha-Cha-Cha England
Sweet Dreams Sweet Dreams - Around the World Señor Coconut Cha-Cha-Cha Germany
No Pares Hasta Tener lo Suficiente No Pares Hasta Tener lo Suficiente (Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough) - Los Míticos del Ritmo (Soundway Records) [feat. Quantic]  Los Miticos Del Ritmo Cumbia Colombia
Dominicana Dominicana - El Abayarde  Tego Calderon Reggaeton Puerto Rico


Cover Me in Latin

Latin or tropical music is a large super genre that includes a range of sub genres like salsa, bachata and merengue.  It is a genre of music that continues to increase in popularity as Latin artists get more and more international exposure.  That said, Latin music can be as foreign sounding to a non-Latino as the Spanish language itself.  The fact is that people new to Latin music and especially those that have been introduced to it through Latin dance may find the music a bit inaccessible.  The rhythms are foreign, the language is foreign, the dance is foreign and all this can make the music unfamiliar and possibly overwhelming.  This is where Latin covers of non-Latin songs find a very receptive audience.  When a dancer enjoys the original version of a song they are likely to also like the cover version and be more comfortable dancing to it; they likely know the lyrics, they are familiar with the melody and are aware of where the “highs” and “lows” in the music occur.  In this month’s blog post I have included a handful of Latin covers will a little bit of background on the original versions of the songs.


As the popularity of bachata continues to increase so does the number of bachata covers.  Bachata covers of “romantic” songs are especially common.  This is probably because bachata is traditionally a very emotionally charged music and it also helps that the associated dance is or can be very sensual in nature.

[list style=”gear”]
  • Hello:  The original version of this song by the same title was recorded by Lionel Richie in the early 80’s.  It’s a soft-rock classic that reached number 1 on the billboards in many English speaking countries.
  • Stand by Me: Originally performed by Ben e King, this R & B classic was released in 1961 and became a number one hit in the USA and UK.
  • Hoy Lo Que Quiero Eres Tu: A cover of an Enrique Iglesias song known by the ‘clean’ name “Tonight (I’m Loving You)”.  It was a number one single in the USA and also in Spain.
[/list] Merengue

Of all Latin genres merengue is probably the one most commonly used to cover non-Latin music.  Its simple 2/4 rhythm makes it easy to mix with other musical styles, maybe too easy.  Many mainstream pop songs have merengue versions (“Gangnam Style” anyone?), which more often than not are much worse than the original.  I was hard-pressed to find many merengue covers that sounded better or at least as good as the non-merengue originals.

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  •  Una Vaina Loca:  The original of this song, released in 2010,  is Hold Ya by Jamaican reggae artist Gyptian.  There are several remixes of it with this merengue version by Fuego (Miguel Duran Jr) being one of the most well known.
[/list] Cha-Cha-Cha

For the most part, the cha-cha-cha (or simply cha-cha) covers I have come across are pretty good. This may be because I do not come across many of them or because it is very easy to do a cha-cha cover badly (case in point “Call Me Maybe”). The market for good cha-cha music is unfortunately small.  However, the market for bad cha-cha covers is thankfully much smaller.
[list style=”gear”]

  • Clocks: The original and the cha-cha cover are both by the English band Coldplay.  The cha-cha version was recorded for the Rhythms Del Mundo album, which contains a large selection of western songs done in a variety of Latin styles.  As a side note, the album was originally made to raise money for Artists’ Project Earth, a climate change awareness and disaster relief charity
  • Sweet Dreams: This euro-pop song was first recorded by the English group the Eurythmics in 1983.  Probably their most famous song, it made it up to number 3 on UK music charts and number 15 on US charts.  The artist that does the Cha-Cha cover, Señor Coconut, has done a bunch of other Latin covers of westerns songs.  This is probably one of his better ones.
[/list]  Cumbia 

As incredibly popular as cumbia is I have only come across a handful of cumbia covers.  This may have to do with the fact that the market for cumbia in North America is relatively small.  Also, a true cumbia needs accordion and most western songs just sound wrong when done with an accordion.

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  • No Pares Hasta Tener lo Suficiente: The original version of this song is Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.  This disco/funk track was released back in 1979 and like many of Michaels early singles, was a number one hit worldwide.  The cumbia version is without vocals, which is probably a good thing, and was released in 2012 by the fantastic modern cumbia band, Los Miticos Del Ritmo,  based in Bogota, Colombia.
[/list] Reggaeton 

Reggaeton has its roots in sampling other musical styles (see Reggaeton – The Beginnings) so it’s not hard to find a reggaeton song that at the very least samples another song.
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  • Dominicana: This song by Tego Calderon though not exactly a cover, draws heavily from the El Gran Combo salsa classic “Ojos Chinos”.   It may not as dancable as the original but it is still a pretty decent reggaeton song.
[/list] Salsa

Considering its international popularity it is no surprise that there are a fair number of salsa covers.  Add to this the fact that salsa dancing is very popular in countries where people don’t traditionally speak Spanish and you end up with a receptive audience for salsa covers of popular (often western) songs.

[list style=”gear”]
  • No Woman, No Cry: originally by Bob Marley this reggae classic was released in 1974.  Merengada the English band that did this salsa cover is only one of many to do a version of the song.  From Nina Simone to NOFX the song has been a popular choice by artists looking to benefit for Bob Marley’s popularity.
  • Unchained Melody: The most well-known version of this song is the one by the Righteous Brothers released in 1965.  However, the song was originally written and recorded in 1955. Unchained Melody is apparently one of the most covered English songs of all time with this salsa version being one of the more recent covers, recorded in 2011.
  • Jugando Super Mario Bros: Not a cover of a another song per se but it is inspired by and draws sound effects and melodies from the hugely popular Nintendo game Super Mario Brothers.  It is a pretty good salsa too considering it is based on the music of an 8 bit video game and for anyone who grew up in the 80’s it is also a bit nostalgia trip to listen to.
  • La Pantera Mambo: The inspiration for this song comes from Harry Mancini’s Oscar nominated “Pink Panther Theme”, which unsurprisingly was the theme song for the Pink Panther movie series.  The original version is an easily recognizable saxophone driven instrumental composition.  True to its name, La Pantera Mambo is a much faster and jazzier version with the addition of lyrics.  The song lends itself surprisingly well to salsa.
  • You Rock My World: Another Michael Jackson classic, the salsa version of the song is a remix by the Cuban DJ Berna Jam.  The vocals are all Michael with Berna Jam adding the salsa instrumentation.  It’s a fantastic cover, one of my favourites (the timba piano is awesome) though I suspect it was not condoned by MJ or his estate as I have not seen it available for purchase or download anywhere.
[/list] That’s it for this month.  Questions, comments, requests?  Send me an email

Hasta la próxima




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