Top 10 Latin Musicians & Bands

  1. Marc Ribot – He’s the David Bowie of guitar. What I mean is his style of guitar and songwriting changes quite frequently and drastically. One minute he’s spazoid on Zorn’s label and the next he’s playing with Elvis Costello. Then he’s starting Radical New Jewish Culture festivals in Germany. His work, however on 1998’s The Prosthetic Cubans and 2000’s Muy Divertido! are incredibly well scripted Cuban jazz records. Both are must-haves.
  2. Shakira – Most will blow her off as leftover commercial pop waste from the Latin explosion of the late 90s. Either I believe her scam or there’s something more. I’ve always been attracted to her non-high-pitched vocals. The high registers are typically the downfall of many women singers. She, at times, reminds me of Alanis Morrisette, a comparison I am sure the critics love to give her. And her songs aren’t always about heartbreak. The only thing I can say, is 1998’s Dónde Están los Ladrones? has blown my mind away and English is not spoken in one song. Just give “Ciega, Sordomuda” a try and if that bright blazing trumpet harmonizing with her voice doesn’t do it for you, well, there’s nothing left to say.
  3. Seu Jorge – This Brazilian singer cranks out the pop like it’s noone’s business. And his covers of many Bowie songs from the The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou soundtrack is worth every penny. Did these chunks of songs also remind you of Jonathan Richman in There’s Something About Mary? Or was it just me?
  4. Juan Garcia Esquivel – Not only a genius and flexible band leader, but a pioneer in pushing the limits of recording studios and technology with pop music of the 50s and 60s. Juan and Les Baxter should be in a hall of fame somewhere.
  5. Gal Costa – I originally heard of Gal Costa when the singer in a band I was in gave me a CD to give to the girl I was dating at the time. Somehow it ever got to her and I found a few years ago behind another CD in it’s case. Never really knowing what it was, but always liking it, until I popped it in the computer and the artist and song titles showed up. She’s Brazilian. She plays the bossa and it’s tropical. She’s also kinda crazy. There’s nothing better for early summer music. Thanks Hewson.
  6. Los Amigos Invisibles – Their 1998 and first American release (on Luaka Bop) was called The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera. Perhaps Caracas’ finest party band. I first saw them for the first time sometime in 1998 when they were opening up for Soul Coughing. Was it Baltimore at the Recher? They really opened my eyes up to dance bands. It was possible. They were incredibly friendly and gracious. I had many conversations about the history of the Strat and other weird guitars with José speaking only in fragments of nouns and verbs trying to pull from the little amount of Spanish I learned in middle school. And whenever I would show up backstage where ever Soul Coughing took them, they would always scream openly, “MATEOOOOOOO!” It still gives me a warm feeling inside.
  7. Astrud Gilberto – While “Ma” Rainey was considered the Mother of Blues, Astrud is the Mother of the Bossa Nova for me. I can’t think of anything else to say. That should pretty much sum it up if you’ve ever heard her music.
  8. Os Mutantes – Brazilian psychedelia at it’s finest. Coming out around the times of Gal Costa it would be interesting to see who influenced whom. In all likelihood it was probably a call and response type deal, a la the Beatles and the Beach Boys circa 1965-1968.
  9. Paulinho Nogueira – I know little to nothing about this artist. I do know he’s a guitarist from Brazil. I do know he died in 2003. I do know his record A Nova Bossa é Violao from 1963 continues to blow my mind away. It’s some of bossa’s finest.
  10. Herb Alpert – In a similar vein, a la Esquivel, Herb’s arrangements were what made him successful. Oh and he was the “A” in A&M Records. Two words: Tijuana Brass. That’s all. I think he’s sold almost 100 million records worldwide. I own three of them.

3 Responses to “Top 10 Latin Musicians & Bands”

  • Los Amigos Invisibles are amazing! I still see them when they hit DC. They opened the Soul Coughing show at 9:30 in Oct. 98.

    Hi, I’m crazy stalker Rona with a mind like a steel trap. Kidding. I had a ticket stub that reminded me of that somewhere. I’ve loved them since.


  • Great list – you really should do more of these! One question, though: no Cal Tjader?

  • Thanks! I tend to think this site is going to become more and more a Top 10 lists site.

    I’ve never heard Cal Tjader. Tell me more!

Comments are currently closed.