Explosive Minds & ZambaLando: Swindon’s Connection to Afro Latin Funk

Patiently waiting for a good reason to feature ZambaLando, Wiltshire’s premier funksters of Afro-Latino beats, so upon the release of the follow-up album to 2020’s Carry On, off we virtually trot to Swindon for a worthy tropical musical expedition!

If there’s ever a criticism over Ry Cooper’s nineties Son adventures with the Buena Vista Social Club, it’s usually the style projected was rather outdated, and not in line with the popular sounds of Cuba at the time. Naturally the counter-argument here is advances in music technology arriving in developing worlds often creates much sparser, avant-garde, and radical subgenres within their pop, which to the western world’s untrained ear can be difficult to differentiate and adopt. So, makes sense for world music bands in Europe and USA to implement a melting pot, fusing styles under blanket terms such as Afro-beat and Afro-Funk.

While I could throw this debate on ZambaLando’s table, given Carry On is an unconditionally unique and beautiful album, its melting pot is spiced with salsa, merengue, lando, festejo, samba and bossa nova, yet all conveyed in a rather traditional and jazzy fashion, the world is smaller place than it was when Cooper popularised the Buena Vista Social Club, thanks to the internet, and through websites like Bandcamp one can easily backpack the planet virtually and be more aware of current global trends. I’m pleased to report back, that ZambaLando have stepped it up a colossal “modernised” notch with this month’s newly released Explosive Mind.

As the title suggests, it is such; explosive, with more contemporary offerings than the styles incorporated within Carry On, which if akin to Antônio Carlos Jobim, Latino-wise, and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen’s archaic afrobeat originations, Explosive Mind really pushes the boundaries of experimentation, often with the serenest ambient soundscapes, like the track Hay Mi Lando, or exotically dubbed, like Siku Funk, but what is more, from the off, the title track, it comes across with a greater and more wholesome funk tenet; irresistibly danceable and strikingly modern.

It doesn’t lose sight of their roots, though, and pre-subgenres of salsa, merengue, lando, festejo, samba and bossa nova are clearly still present. At times it embraces them fully, as Carry On did, yet at others it plays with them; this makes it the “journey” I suggested it is. So, if I expressed how Hay Mi Landos loses you in electronic ambience, it also ingeniously encompasses bossa nova too. Again, the following songs Little Baby and Sorry, are soulfully blessed, yet wouldn’t look out of place of NYP’s Mukambo Global Beats anthologies, which offers only the most contemporary of world music.

There’s mellower moments of romantically-themed jazzy blues-fashioned bliss as the album progresses, with masterpieces like Walking Along the River but the finale of this ten-track marvel, Quédate No Te Vayas is precisely the definition of what I’m trying to convey here; it rocks steady, samba fashion, incorporating up-to-date techniques to present this traditional, magical blend of Latino afro-funk subgenres as something worthy for your modern ears, and it doesn’t try to trick you with complexities of the ever-changing global pop either, just smooths all the way through.

I’m so pleased ZambaLando have provided this option locally, for their musical multiplicity is a blessing in a somewhat narrowly sundry circuit, and this album presents it in such a sublime way, while they gig prolifically in their hometown, I can imagine this will bring them to wider appeal. If I let you into a secret I might get in trouble for leaking, you won’t tell, will you?! But on my recommendation, Devizes Arts Festival are in talks with ZambaLando, entreating my passion to get them in playing our humble town, of which I’m thoroughly grateful for, and this album, Explosive Mind, illustrates exactly why I’ve such enthusiasm to do this!

Give it a listen this winter, it’ll warm you up cheaper than British Gas will!


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