Panama!: Latin, Calypso and Funk On the Isthmus

Various Artists

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Panama!: Latin, Calypso and Funk On the Isthmus Review

by Megan Frye

If you really sit down and think about how much amazing music there is in the world, you'll start to realize that you have only been exposed to a surprisingly miniscule percentage of it. Up until this album's release in April of 2006, the songs on Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-1975 had never been released outside of their home country, and there are two men to thank for bringing these mind-blowing tracks to those hungry for amazing music: Roberto Ernesto Gyemant and Miles Cleret. Gyemant was living in Costa Rica when he visited the small village of David, Panama. As relief from the sweltering heat, he ended up taking refuge in a radio station that broadcast reggaeton and salsa as its main fare. Gyemant inquired about older records: his inquiry was met with a visit to a small storage room containing roughly 10,000 LPs and 45s. Days later, he had picked through them, noticing labels he'd never seen; these labels were on the albums of Combos Nacionales, Panamanian groups from the late '60s and early '70s. Years later, 15 tracks out of the thousands of singles he sorted through are appearing for the first time on Panama!. To say the music here is great is an understatement. The blending of, as the title suggests, Latin soul, funk, calypso and jazz literally takes the listener to a different world. The album functions as a personal time portal. The way this album came about represents the Caribbean region perfectly, with its amazingly diverse people and culture everywhere. You just have to drop off the beaten path to find it. That's the best way to describe this gem of a compilation. Panama! is an intoxicating mix of sultry eclecticism, and though these tracks haven't been released outside of Panama until now, they breathe nostalgia.

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