Un Poquito Quema'o
Higher Octave World
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
When I first saw the name of this artist on the review list, I thought, who is this Sergent Garcia guy? But the album description said that it was a mix of Cuban son, reggae, rap, and salsa. Since I like all of these styles, I figured it would be a safe bet to get it. Well man, am I happy to own this CD - it is fantastic!!!! And it is certainly one of the most enjoyable CDs I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Oh, in my enthusiasm, I almost forgot to mention the name of the album. It's called Un Poquito Quema'o, and it's by a French-born artist who goes by the name of Sergent Garcia. I said "French-born" because Garcia also has ancestral roots in Spain and Africa. He combines all of this heritage along with some of those he fancies from the English and Spanish-speaking Caribbean to generate some extremely hot and rhythmic dance music.
While the name Sergent Garcia may be new to many in the U.S. and most other places, he is apparently already quite a sensation in his native France where Un Poquito Quema'o is all the rage in the Parisian dance clubs. Garcia cites Bob Marley, Busta Rhymes, Irakere, Ruben Blades, Kid Mangu, Mexakinds and a host of other groups and artists as pivotal influences on his music. While listening to this son-reggae-rap hybrid of sounds, you really do hear all of these various influences. The very talented Garcia sings and raps in Spanish and Jamaican patois with amazing fluency and musicality. I would be remiss if I didn't comment on Sergent's jamming and versatile band of ten musicians including Garcia himself, who sings lead and plays guitar. The Cuban conga is very prominent throughout many of the recordings, and it is played with expert authenticity. If you follow Cuban music, reggae or hip-hop, you will be very impressed with the ease and competency this group demonstrates as it moves between these different genres.
What enchanted me the most, though, was the use or combination of all of these various rhythms within the same song. This is what makes the Sergent Garcia sound so different and refreshing. The world has already heard reggae, salsa and rap, but when you listen to how Sergent combines them (like some great chef mixing ingredients), it really makes you want to stop and listen...and then break out dancing. As a matter of fact, I think the title "Chef" suits him better than "Sergent," but that's just my opinion.
Well let's talk a little about a few of the songs themselves. The CD starts out with a salsa tune called Si Yo LLego, Yo LLego that's sung in Spanish. Later on, it moves on to Amor Pa' Mi, a reggae song that's sung in Spanish with the same stylistic flavor of Jamaican reggae artists. At a certain point, there is a very brief salsa interlude before quickly changing back into the reggae format. Oye Mi Bomba is a dance hall reggae song that is sung in Spanish. At certain points, salsa piano riffs come to the fore, to be followed by a seamless switch to a sort of salsa rhythm before switching back to reggae. This song closes in a salsa vein.
To' Fini Bie is strictly an instrumental track featuring Afro-Cuban drumming and percussion. Jumpi is a passionate Latin number guaranteed to get you moving. It features some great conga and flute playing, and is very modern sounding. Medicine Man is another dance hall reggae, and one of the best of this type on this album. One of my favorites is Que Viene El Mani, a Sergeant Garcia adaptation of the universally beloved Cuban song,El Manicero (aka: The Peanut Vendor). This one starts out just like the original El Manicero, but after the introduction, it bursts forth into a wonderful dance hall reggae. The only remaining reminders of El Manicero after the introduction are the melodic piano riffs and a short trumpet solo towards the end of the song. Camino De La Vida is a hip-hop tune with strong acid jazz overtones. Mamaye is a nice, mellow reggae number that is very reminiscent of Bob Marley's musical sound.
My two favorite tracks are 9 Vidas and Mojemonos. Talk about great dance music with melodies that remain with you! I heard my four year-old daughter singing this one the day after I played the CD for the first time. These are predominantly reggae with strong and pervasive Latin strains.
The CD contains seventeen songs. All of them are excellent. I merely singled out the ones that made the most lasting impression on me. Keep your eyes and ears open for Sergent Garcia's Un Poquito Quema'o. I understand it's going to be hitting the stores around the end of January 2000. Un Poquito Quema'o is going to find itself spinning on my CD player for a long time after this review is done.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz