various artists,
Carnival
(Putumayo, 2001)

Many people automatically associate "carnival" with New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro, but as usual, Putumayo expands the definition in its collection Carnival. This compilation amply demonstrates the cultural, religious and musical influences on carnival celebrations in different countries.

The 10 tracks in this collection do indeed take you to New Orleans and Rio and to six other locations as well: Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Barbados and Trinidad. The liner notes point out that "carnival music everywhere is music of the streets, designed for partying and group celebrations."

Carnival is the frenzied time of indulgence before Ash Wednesday and Lent, although frequently the Christian traditions overlie already existing festivals, depending on the country.

Each track is different. From Brazil, Ara Ketu's "Tapete Negro" combines Afro-Bahian drumming with a splash of salsa while Eddie Bo rocks out rhythm 'n' blues in "I Know You Mardi Gras." Colombia's Fruko y sus Tesos offers sassy salsa in "El Nueva Caimán" and the Cuban Cuarteta Patria play son music, connecting it with Cameroonian roots. Un Solo Pueblo plays Venezuelan calypso in "Macoklis Mango" and Kermit Ruffins' "Kermit's Second Line" takes you back to New Orleans for some good old New Orleans jazz. The liner notes state that "'second line' refers to the people who walk behind the band dancing and partying, the second line of the parade," and you might find yourself looking for a spot there yourself.

Haiti's King Posse combines a variety of styles in the reggae flavored "Retounen" and Martnho da Vila sends an invitation to Rio de Janeiro with the samba "Canta Canta, Minha Gente." The last two stops are Barbados for Big Day's brassy "Spirit of Crop-Over" and Trinidad for the lively steel drum sound of Andre Tanker and "Wild Indian Band."

Carnival is an eye-opener in more ways than one. It introduces you to the many variations on the theme of the carnival celebration, and its spirited sound is sure to chase away the blues. Having a less than happy day? Responsibilities weighing you down? Put on Carnival and dance your cares away.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 25 August 2001



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