¡Viva Cackalacky! The Vibrant Sounds of Latin Americans in North Carolina

Various Artists – “¡Viva Cackalacky! Latin Music in the New South
Various Artists

“¡Viva Cackalacky! Latin Music in the New South (UNC, 2012)

World Music Central visits the collection “¡Viva Cackalacky! Latin Music in the New South, a tribute to the music made by the increasing Hispanic and Brazilian community in North Carolina. Recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the state’s Hispanic population more than doubled over the last decade, making North Carolina 6th in the United States in Hispanic population growth.

The music selection focuses on artists who live in the areas with a highest concentration of Latin Americans: the Triangle Region (Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh), the Charlotte metro area and Western North Carolina. ¡Viva Cackalacky! Latin Music in the New South includes a wide-ranging diversity of styles of music from Mexican norteño and mariachi to Colombian música llanera, salsa, merengue, samba, cumbia and religious music.

Artists featured include Raleigh’s Rey Norteño, Asheville-based Brazilian musician Jimmy Griffith, Durham’s Latin jazz pioneers Carnavalito, Raleigh’s Mariachi Amanecer Tapatío, Chapel Hill-based Castañeda family from Colombia, also based in Chapel Hill is Brazilian act Samba Joven, salsa ensemble Orquesta GarDel from Chapel Hill, Mariachi Los Gavilanes from Charlotte, Durham rap group The Beast, Brazilian Paulo Lopes and two religious music groups, Newman Center Choir from Chapel Hill and Pentecostales de Durham.

Rey Norteño is probably the most famous of the artists featured on the album. They play accordion-driven corridos and Mexican-style cumbia. The band had a hit in 2006 with the song ‘Raleigh’ which opens the album.

One of the best cuts on the album is ‘Joyce’ by Jimmy Griffith from Vicosa (Brazil). He plays captivating rootsy samba-jazz with Portuguese-language vocals, guitar and a rhythm section. The inclusion of Brazilian acts in a Latin Music compilation may confuse some people. Brazilians are Latin Americans but they don’t speak Spanish. They speak Portuguese. Some Americans tend to use Latino to describe Spanish-speaking Latin Americans. The term Latin is even more confusing because in Europe, southern Europeans are called Latins. That’s why the term Hispanic for Spanish-speakers makes more sense in this context, to avoid confusion.

Carnavalito is a seminal band in the Triangle. They have been making Latin jazz and tropical music in the Triangle region since the 1990s. The band was started by Salvadoran bassist Ricardo Granillo, who recruited musicians from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and other backgrounds. The band has two albums Carnavalito (1996) and Tu y yo (1999). One of their pieces appears on the movie Los sueños de Angélica, the first Hispanic feature film made in North Carolina, directed by Rodrigo Dorfman. I was involved in this project as executive producer while working at the Latino Community Credit Union.

Mariachi Amanecer Tapatío is one of the two mariachi acts featured in the anthology. The group’s musical director is Blas Vargas, and they play regularly at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Chapel Hill.

Another album highlight is the appearance of Pavelid Castañeda and his family with two pieces. Pavelid is a harp virtuoso who plays música llanera, the music of the Colombian plains.

Samba Joven is the second act representing the music of Brazil. They play traditional samba and pagode.

When I first saw the name Orquesta GarDel, I thought I was going to hear a tango act named after Carlos Gardel, the great tango legend. However, the name GarDel comes from the fusion of the last names of the band’s founders, David Garcia, a professor of ethnomusicology at UNC Chapel Hill, and singer Nelson Delgado. Orquesta GarDel is a multigenerational Cuban timba, salsa and Latin jazz ensemble that features veteran Hispanic musicians together with skilled American jazz players. The group is currently directed by pianist Eric Hirsh and trombonist Andy Kleindienst.

Orquesta Gardel (another album highlight) appears in two formats, as a solo act and in collaboration with hip hop group The Beast. In 2011 Orquesta GarDel released its debut EP, Lo Que Tú Querías, with entirely original compositions.

Brazilian guitarist and singer Paulo Lopes performs one of the best known songs from Brazil, the classic ‘The Girl from Ipanema.’

Lastly, the album includes a few examples of religious music in Hispanic congregations. The Newman Center Choir represents the modern Catholic choral traditions, while Pastor Galindo and Los Pentecostales show a Christian Protestant praise service.

The project was conceived by University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Professor David García and 17 of his students. They developed a class project to produce an album documenting local Hispanic/Latino music scenes. “¡Viva Cackalacky! Latin Music in the New South” focuses on music as a dynamic method to explore their migration experience.

“Our aim is twofold: first, to recognize the invaluable contributions that these musicians and their communities have made to North Carolina’s cultural vibrancy; and second, to provide future students of immigration a unique perspective into the musical threads that bind migrant, immigrant, transplant, and native communities in the New South,” says García in the CD booklet.

As to the title of the album, even though I’ve lived in North Carolina for many years, I never heard the word Cackalacky before so I looked it up. The word seems to have two meanings, a slang term for North Carolina or people from the state and a spice sauce from North Carolina.

The project was granted a 2012 Latino Migration Funding award from the Latino Migration Project at the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives in addition to funding from the UNC Program of Latina/o Studies. Hannah Gill, director of the Latino Migration Project, celebrated this album for its “uniquely North Carolina material and for showcasing the incredible talent that our new Latino neighbors are bringing to the state.”

David García’s class (MUSC/INTS 258: Musical movements of migration, exile and diaspora) was primarily responsible for every step of the production process. The students attended performances, interviewed the musicians and acquired their participation in the compilation.

Artist links

Rey Norteño, reynorteno.com

Carnavalito, reverbnation.com/carnavalito

Jimmi Griffith, sonicbids.com/2/EPK/?epk_id=68012

Samba Jovem, sambajovem.com

Orquesta GarDel, orquestagardel.com

Pavelid Castañeda, myspace.com/pavelidcastaneda

Newman Center Choir, newman-chapelhill.org

The Beast, thebeastmusic.com

For more information about the project and the album go to: unc.edu/campus-updates/viva-cackalacky

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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