Album: Various artists

Mestizo Music, Trikont
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The Independent Culture

In Latin America, unlike the more jaded North America and Europe, popular music is still a political force - witness songs here like the anthem of Brazil's land-reform movement Movimento Sem Terra, or the reggae-flavoured tracks by Argentinian bands in support of the "piqueter@s" whose 2001 protests changed the country's economic structures. Subtitled Rebelión en América Latina, this latest excellent compilation from the German roots-archivist label gathers modern protest music from South and Central America: a fiery mix of Mexican Zapatista ska-punk, Colombian cumbia-rock, Uruguayan hip-hop and something called "salsamuffin", not a spicy bun, but a salsa/ragga hybrid. At one end of the sonic spectrum, Colombia's Coffee Makers crank out a Latino-ska instrumental with all the verve of The Skatalites; at the other, bands like Brazil's Mundo Livre S/A and the pan-Latin American collective The Platform use funk drums, dub echoes, electronic noise, fragments of radio broadcasts, speeches by Chomsky, and in one case lines from "Ballad of a Thin Man" to create multi-layered collages. There's even a style called "Mestizaje Electronico", a reggae-rap mode created by the Bellavista Social Club, whose name punningly invokes both the celebrated Cuban old-timers and a local Colombian prison. It's not all Ricky Martin out there, thank God.

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