Oswin Chin Behilia


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For four decades now, singer/songwriter Oswin Chin Behilia has occupied an important place in his native Curaçao both as a purveyor of irresistibly hooky and danceable music, and as a trenchant commentator on the island's often fraught political environment. Listening to his third album for the Otrabanda label, those who don't speak Spanish will hear nothing but gorgeously shaped melodies, chiming tres guitars, bubbling percussion, and Behilia's rich, chesty singing voice. But beneath the cheerful tunes and hip-swaying rhythms are lines like "My people, wake up, stop filling your eyes with sand/Your country is quietly being transferred into other hands" and "They ruined our trade, closed our factories, our families are disgraced." Heavy stuff, set to wonderfully light musical accompaniment. In this sense, Behilia's music functions much the same way that calypso music did in Trinidad and Jamaica when he was young -- as a way to keep tabs on government and corporate malfeasance, to spread the word of current events throughout the community, and to provide fodder for dances at the same time. Forty years into that project, Behilia continues to fulfill all of those functions with sharp-eyed intelligence and musical wit. Notice in particular his appropriation of a popular children's song title with "Zikinzá," his admirably even-handed analysis of legal corruption in "Korupshon," and his somewhat more impassioned analysis of energy policy(!) on "Ata a Toni." And for a bit of light relief, there are the sweetly romantic "Si Abo No T'ei" and a wry account of marital infidelity titled "Den Bo Kushina." Politics or no politics, in purely musical terms there is not a single weak track on this excellent album.

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