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Sleepwalking to a Funky Beat

sonambuloBy Jim Parisi

What do you get when you combine eleven musicians from Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia and El Salvador who create a fusion sound of reggae, cumbia and funk, then let them tour Europe? If you ask the musicians of Sonambulo, they will tell you that the result is a new style of music that they call “psicotropical”, a catchy phrase for their very infectious music. The band’s first album, “A Puro Peluche”, was released in January 2009 with a lot of positive acclaim and little distribution. It was reissued in 2010 and promptly won the ACAM Best Tropical Album award.
Jaime Peligro Books and Music

Getting heard is always a problem for any independent performer, no matter how good or popular you might be. But the Costa Rican label Papaya Music has recognized the talent of this band and has decided to include them in their catalog, which could be the break, the springboard, this band deserves. Sonambulo actually began as a music project five years ago, evolved and influenced from the street circus performances, Magos del Tiempo, in an effort to amalgamate social and environmental causes in a musical score that combines traditional and modern Latin and African beats into a creative new sound. The music definitely has all that and a carney, gypsy feel to it as well. I also hear a Middle Eastern influence and jazz roots as well, and yes, a little Rock & Roll, too. The result is truly global music, as can be heard in all thirteen songs on the album. Of the eleven musicians, there are three horn players, a keyboardist, and electric bass and guitarists, with the five other musicians supplying a wall of percussion, which often directs the sound of the band. I also find it interesting to have five members contributing vocals, throwing another variety of sounds into the mix. It’s hard to put a label on their sound (except psicotropical); it reminds me at different times of many styles, embracing them all, with a myriad of tempo breaks running rampant throughout the album. And the music is certainly danceable. Through all the creativity of this nearly hour-long disc, it is obvious that these guys are enjoying themselves.

Standout songs on the album include “Zona Roja”, led by the funky bass playing of Tito Fuentes and “Jabali Montuno”, with the reggae influenced guitar of David Cuenca. The title song, “A Puro Peluche” has a Trance beat that is hypnotic, with the excellent keyboard playing (and all throughout the album, really) of Manu Davila. “Animal” is another notable, original song on the album, along with “Chusma Funk”, two songs that defy conventional terms, helping to define the new psicotropical category.

The band has just completed a twenty-five date tour of Europe in a six week span, helping to confirm their global appeal. They are now reportedly working on their second CD and I, for one, am anxious to hear it. Papaya Music has been promoting new local talent for some time and combined with their recent release of the CD by Lucho Calavera yla Canallaand now Sonambulo, they are well represented by modern, Twenty-First Century Costa Rican music.

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