Orquesta Akokán – Orquesta Akokán

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It’s December, so tis the fucking season of bombarding and deafening Christmas music playing while you despondently decide which ramen noodle pack won’t make you shit yourself. The depression garnered at a grocery store during this time of year has that distinct mixture of existential dread, soul numbing social anxiety, with just a dash of cinnamon for that additional “fuck you” sting. Tis also the season of “Best of” lists. They’re everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against them (if I get a comment asking for that sweet intoxicating fix of a thigh-pulsing list, I might consider making one). But there’s a dark side to these lists. You’ll notice it after scrolling through your eighth page of albums and you’ll end up saying, “Where the fuck did these albums come from?” It was this unique concoction of Christmas panic, thick lists, and wet feet that made me say to myself, “Fuck this, it’s time to mambo.” 

Akokán is a Yoruba word that means “from the heart”. About three seconds into this shit and you’ll understand the use of the word. This really is an orchestra from the heart. If you’re thinking it must be some mambo remix that, for some reason, counts off the women some dude fucked, you’re way off. This is old-school shit. This is a 16-piece big band made of talented motherfuckers that know their craft. They’re as authentic as cocaine, cigars, and vintage cars. It was even recorded in Havana in the same studio that sported Buena Vista Social Club back in ’97. There’s an old energy gathered here. Something vivacious, tantalizing, and often ignored. If you could fuck music, this is a music you’d want to fuck. Shit’s got hips. It’s a guarantee that if you cook food while listening to this music you’ll be shaking that ass like a pair of speed bags and, somehow, your food will end up spicy (oatmeal was interesting this morning). 

The lead vocalist to this album is Jose “Pepito” Gomez. His voice is perfect for this. He has that type of voice that bleeds optimism and cheer. He’s like a tour guide on a cruise ship that convinces the elderly to take tequila tit shots and limbo. He’s fucking unstoppable. Each and every player on this is completely on point. The horn shots are tight. The piano floats with the ease and mastery of a Bach (if Bach were three shots deep). And it was all recorded in four days. The players feed off each other. You can tell they’re having the time of their lives. So, the next time you’re finding yourself wanting to stab the speaker box at your local grocery store as yet another rendition of “Here comes Santa Claus,” decides to ruin your day, throw this on. Cause nothing says a happy Christmas quite like mojitos, ass cheeks proudly clapping, and the hot punching rhythm of a 16-piece band. 

 

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