La Semilla Escondida is the third album from French fusionist Sergent Garcia, the title referring to the "hidden seed" of reggae that infuses the whole of the work. Garcia's style of choice is what he's termed "salsamuffin," a melding of Cuban and Jamaican forms (primarily salsa and ragamuffin, but including aspects of hip-hop, jazz, son, ska, and more). Underlying nearly all of the pieces is a bouncing reggae guitar loop of sorts, often with a loping beat to boot. Garcia and his band perform some quite worthwhile salsa and reggae both, switching flawlessly from Spanish to English to French as the tone calls for. More interesting, though, is the intermixing of the Cuban and Jamaican idioms. The reggae beat is always present, but Cuban percussion motifs are common as well. The large brass section capably plays ska riffs and hot Cuban concepts equally well, but often within the countering style (ska riffs in what's otherwise a piece of son, Cuban flamboyance in an otherwise subdued bit of reggae dub). The album opens musically with some basic raga, moving then into a mix of Cuban and Jamaican, followed in turn by some Latin jazz complete with a flute loop in "El Asalto." "Mi Ultima Voluntad" moves between a salsa singing style, Spanish hip-hop, and a laid-back reggae keyboard. Moving through some more straightforward reggae, the band eventually makes their way into a mix of classic cha cha and Latin rap in "El Regreso," and to some degree in "Nada Tiene Final," as well. More straightforward ska follows closely on the heels of this, followed soon itself by some percussion and chanting in "Tu No Sabes Na'" that sounds reminiscent of the nyabinghi drumming tradition (pre-Rasta). Some more ska infusion can be heard in "Poetas," and "Viva la Felicidad" takes a stab at encompassing all of the component sounds as it closes out the album. From end to end, the album makes an impressive attempt at fusing some only slightly-related musical traditions, and does so with surprisingly good results. For anyone getting tired of the same basic reggae structures, or curious about how Cuban music could be added to other idioms, this album is the way to go. For those just looking for an enjoyable listen, it's a pretty good choice too.
AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg
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