King Africa

Energia [Fonovisa]

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Based in Los Angeles, Fonovisa has been a major player in the Mexican market -- there is no shortage of Tejano and norteño/Tex-Mex in Fonovisa's catalog. But King Africa's Energia isn't one of the label's more Mexican-oriented releases. King Africa is from Argentina, although Energia isn't tango any more than it is ranchera or mariachi -- this type of project could just as easily have come from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. King Africa's specialty is club/dance music with a tropical outlook. In the Latin music world, the term tropical is used to describe Afro-Cuban salsa, Colombian cumbia, and Dominican merengue and bachata -- and on this consistently club-friendly CD, a tropical sound is combined with elements of hip-hop, reggae, house, and jungle/drum'n'bass. King Africa's songs tend to be gimmicky, but they're also fun, catchy, and insanely danceable. If you landed a DJ gig in a Latin-oriented dance club -- the location could be anywhere from Barcelona to Buenos Aires to Miami's trendy South Beach area -- Energia is exactly the sort of ultra danceable, relentlessly exuberant CD you would want to have on hand. "Energia" is the Spanish word for energy, and King Africa brings plenty of that to tunes like "Vitorino" and "Salta 2002" (which revisits King Africa's 1993 smash, "Salta"). One thing that "Muchacha Triste" does have in common with Fonovisa's more Mexican-oriented recordings is an early-'60s post-doo wop influence -- in the Mexican pop field, some artists like to incorporate elements of '50s doo wop or the early-'60s girl group sound. But King Africa doesn't do it in a Mexican way; on "Muchacha Triste," the CD's tropical outlook remains. Inevitably, some intellectuals in the Latin world will complain about King Africa's gimmicky tendencies, but Energia is what it is -- a fun, enjoyable, seriously infectious dose of escapist party music.

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