A Quarter Century of Cantoamerica
When a band has been together for as long as Cantoamerica has, its influence tends to stretch out and embrace a community much larger than just the guys in the group. Twenty-five years and twelve recordings into their collective career, that is exactly what has occurred with Cantoamerica. Fronted by musicologist Manuel Monestel, the band recently released the self-explanatory CD, “Cantoameric 25 Anos”, a live recording of some of the band’s most recognizable songs. On hand to partake in the celebration are a number of major players in the current Costa Rica music scene.
The band itself is comprised of Monestel on guitar and lead vocals, a horn section that includes two trombones and a flute, bass and keyboards, and three percussionists. One of these, Rafael Vargas, is the younger brother of Carlos “Tapas” Vargas, the drummer for both Malpais and Editus, two renowned Costa Rican bands. Not unlike the recent Cantoamerica show hosted by Night Life Tamarindo, the guys start off the CD with a nod to Manuel’s mentor, legendary Calypsonian, Walter Ferguson, singing “Cabin in the Water”. And just like that, the fun these guys generate at their live shows is immediately translated to the listener. The disc closes with “Carnaval Day”, also by Water Ferguson and “Next Creation” by Herbeth ‘Lenki’ Glinton, another cornerstone of Costa Rican Calypso music. These tributes to the forefathers of local Calypso music frame the CD very well. All the rest of the tunes on the disc are penned by Monestel.
Vocalist Maria Pretiz shows up to sing “Espejo” with the band, turning in a tasty vocal duet with Monestel on the ballad. Editus sits in with Cantoamerica for their rendition of “Seguira el Amor”, one of the more impressive numbers on this disc. The chorus, led by Elena Zuniga, lends itself well to the song, too. On “Oficio”, the band is ably accompanied by Amarillo, Cian y Magenta, who add their bent of “nu jazz” to the song. “Merry Woman” finds the Cantoamerica performing with Frutos de Acki, a Caribbean Costa Rican female vocal quartet.
|The Calypsonian at Work|
Of course, Monestel’s longtime friend Manuel Obregon, the founder of Papaya Music, makes his contribution on piano all over the CD. His style is unmistakable and his ability to change stylistically between various songs is indicative of the entire gamut of Cantoamerica’s playbook. While the CD could be viewed a Cantoamerica as the house band for all their friends in the house, this really isn’t true. The guest appearances are nice and very complimentary, the music and the performances are unilaterally Cantoamerica’s. The enthusiastic crowd responses are a testament to the band’s legacy. It’s a little reminiscent of the latest Malpais live CD, “En Vivo” in that respect.
The encore cut is, appropriately, Manuel Monestel’s most popular song, “Give My People a Chance”. It is also obvious that the group is well rehearsed but they also leave enough room for improvisation, which, when done properly, makes for an enjoyable live performance. It was definitely done properly on this recording, which were taken from two live shows at Teatro Popular Melico Salazar in San Jose on October 21 & 22 last year. Monestel also produced the CD and oversaw the artistic direction. It’s definitely his baby and he should be very proud of it.
“Cantoamerica 25 Anos” is available at Jaime Peligro, where they will gladly sample the music for customers. Any comments concerning this article are welcome.