Various Artists: Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque (Strut) 

The Sofrito collective started by throwing an ongoing series of dance parties in warehouses, lofts and other marginal spaces in East London in 2005. Now more of a global affair, they've put their main players on the DJ highway to gigs outside of the United Kingdom and are releasing a series of "Sofrito Specials," 12-inch singles of rarities. Now comes this fine compilation CD, Tropical Discotheque.

As the title indicates, Sofrito specializes in tropical dance sounds, and the CD collects 15 tracks spanning several decades from South America, the Caribbean and Africa. Considering the disparate locales and eras covered, this compilation holds together remarkably well, for the simple reason that all the tracks have sunny, upbeat grooves; they're defined by their essence, not their locale.

From 2010, "Pitchito," by the Colombian combo Frente Cumbiero, is delightful, spacey electro-cumbia. From the mid-'80s, "Ohue," by the Nigerian legend Victor Uwaifo, is Afro-funk stripped down to the essentials and rebuilt back up by Sofrito DJs Simbad and Frankie Francis. El Timba's 2007 Latin jam "Descarga Bontempi" is pretty much guaranteed to pack dance floors from one continent to the next. From Trinidad, Mighty Shadow kicks down a bass-heavy jam with "Dat Soca Boat." Zaire's Les Ya Toupas Du Zaire follow a long and meandering, yet engrossing groove on "Je Ne Bois Pas Beaucoup."

A full-color book features reproductions of classic Sofrito posters and artist and track information. This is highly recommended.

More by Carl Hanni


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