The beleaguered nation of Colombia, fraught as it is with poverty and drug wars, is the source of some of the most joyous music in the hemisphere. Almost as if in defiance of external hardships, Colombian musicians produce an upbeat, festive sound that draws on African, European, and native influences. This release features a dozen examples of Cumbia, porro, vallenato, and salsa. The artists range from heartthrobs los 50 de Joselito, whose traditional Andean sound belies their youth, to veterans such as the late Lucho Bermúdez, whose soaring clarinet drives the churning "Fiesta de Negritos." What all of these artists have in common is a reverence for the traditional forms combined with a talent for colorful, danceable arrangements. Percussion is crisp, and earthy, brass arrangements are sharp and tight, and the vocals convey a warm sense of fun. A particular highlight is Tulio Zuloaga's "El Temporal," a Puerto Rican plena. It cooks along with rich background harmonies and agile accordion riffs. La Sonora Dinamita throws a lot of brash humor into the irreverent Cumbia "El Ciclón." Contrast this with the smooth, warm "Delia la Cumbiambera" by the Latin Brothers, with its creamy brass and salsa counter rhythm on the piano. By no means a complete overview of Colombian music, this release gives a good sampling of a handful of styles, whetting the appetite for more.
AllMusic Review by Peggy Latkovich