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Monday, Feb 06 2006 | 17:46

Western musical connoisseurs have often overlooked the contribution of Panama. Even those specializing in Latin music tend to focus on the triangle of Cuba / Puerto Rico / New York or head further south to Brazil.

The new compilation “Panama – Latin, Calypso & Funk …” on Soundway aims to redress the balance and show that the music of Panama can stand up and be counted among the very best, whether it be saucy calypso, smoking funk or straight Latin fire.

This album represents an important departure for Soundway, being our first collection of music from outside the African continent. Just as with previous releases, the fruit of numerous trips to Panama and days spent digging through dusty basements is this selection of cuts never before released outside Panama sourced from long-deleted albums or obscure 45s. They have all been carefully licensed and re-mastered and sound as vibrant and relevant today as the day they were released.

The music of Panama reflects the melting-pot diversity of the country itself, ranging from the musica tipica (mestizo folk music) influenced by the cumbia and vallenato of Columbia to the South, through Afro-Cuban sounds such as the son, rumba, guaracha and guaguanco, to mento and proto-Calypso arriving from Jamaica and Trinidad. This rich mix was further enhanced with rancheras, boleros, foxtrots and military marches being brought South by Mexican soldiers and Afro-American jazz and gospel also filtered in from the port at New Orleans.

As with all our releases, the emphasis is on music that works on the dance-floor, rather than typically ‘world music’ authenticity, we look for fusions of local and international styles, crazy cover versions and rare and original sounds – just as long as they are heavy enough to make the people move. The album will be accompanied by a detailed and lovingly researched booklet featuring reproduced original artwork and rare photos of the artists at the time.

The compilation VariousPanama – Latin, Calypso & Funk …” (Soundway) is going to be released March 17, 2006.

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