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Rapper’s Delight: Strings In Hip Hop

In the late ’70s, DJ Afrika Bambaataa defined the pillars of hip hop and helped establish the term “hip hop” as more than just a genre of music. This weekly column will focus on the musicians behind the culture and the music they create. From album reviews to interviews, Rapper’s Delight will deliver unique content featuring a combination of OurStage artists and national acts. This opening post will give you a taste of how deep OurStage’s talent pool really is with a playlist highlighting strings in hip hop. Check back every Saturday for another dose of that real hip hop you crave!

There’s a lot of hip hop out there, and having a song stand out from the competition can be as important as it is daunting . Some artists toy around with instrumentation to grab your attention, throwing horns, guitar or piano into the mix to offer a change of pace that many fans enjoy. This playlist calls attention to tracks featuring strings, all from OurStage artists, so give it a listen and share your thoughts in the comment space below.

GuacaMusic: Christine Ann and The Bassalindos

Here is a question for you: Do you have to be Latin to play Latin?

Of course not! To prove my point I am dedicating this post to a group from Montreal who performs Latin music like any native Spanish speaker. Maybe even better…

I am talking about Christine Ann & The Bassalindos, an acoustic world pop multilingual gem from Montreal, Canada. They have gotten rave reviews from OurStage fans by mingling pop, folk and sometimes jazz with Arabic and Latin elements. Their music has been described as rhythmic, exotic and sexy. No wonder they’ve been dominating the OurStage Latin and World Charts during the past few months.

So who are the Bassalindos anyway?

Lead singer and founder Christine Ann Atallah describes herself as “a Mediterranean Diva of the snowy North.” The truth is, there is nothing cold about this star, who fluently speaks and performs in four languages, and made her first television appearance at the young age of four-years-old.

Danny McLaughlin is the brilliant francophone guitarist of the Bassalindos. Along with Christine, he is the main songwriter for the band, and the pair collaborate on the creation of material for the albums and live shows. A native of New Brunswick, he also co-arranged and co-produced the Bassalindo’s album Escapades, which is featured in a permanent exhibit at the International Peace Museum in Samarkand for the Peace song “Salam”.

François Lalonde is the bass master and one of the original members of the Bassalindos. He plays both the acoustic bass and electric bass with equal ease and virtuosity, and is involved in the musical direction of the band. Along with Lalonde there is drummer Mathieu Tessier, an energetic and dynamic player continuously in demand in the four corners of the globe. He plays in varied styles ranging from: jazz, blues, funk and pop.

Last but not least is percussionist, Oud, eastern flute and back up vocalist Firas Haddad—who also plays a variety of instruments like the tabla, the rek and dahola among others. The multitalented Firas has composed alongside Christine and is a skilled studio programmer. He comprises the major element of the eastern composing and arranging team for the Bassalindos.

You see? Who said you needed to be born in Panama or Costa Rica to perform original songs with a deep Latin touch? Multiculturalism is, in fact, one of the main characteristics of our music, so let’s celebrate our differences and enjoy together the delicious mixture of flavors that is la música Latina. ¡Provecho!

GuacaMusic: Cristian Larrosa

There are love songs and then there are canciones de amor.

No one can deny that singing about love is even more romantic when the lyrics are en español. Think about the phrase “I love you” versus “Te amo”—which one makes your heart melt faster?

You would be surprised to hear, however, that many Spanish love songs are actually about romantic misfortune. Past relationships, broken hearts and unreciprocated love are just a few of the themes that are found in many canciones.

It wouldn’t be fair to discuss Latin love songs without mentioning one of the most romantic artists on OurStage: Cristian Larrosa. This talented singer-songwriter from Argentina is capable of touching your soul by combining a variety of musical styles (think pop, jazz and rock, among others) with poetic lyrics and passionate themes.

Cristian began making music at the age of sixteen and, after years of writing songs for other artists, he launched his own production company called NeoMusic Productions. He released his first solo album in 2009.

Cristian’s first album can best be described as a collection of Latin pop songs and romantic ballads, all of them with a Caribbean touch. Among the most notable pieces is “Me sobras, Me faltas”, a modern Latin ballad with soft rock influence, that was was adapted and performed in English under the name of “You’re Plenty & Not Enough.”

This effort was so acclaimed by the fans that Cristian released another album titled El inconciente de mi alma — featuring songs with a variety of guest musicians such as Alejandro Escobar and Daniel Patachon, among others — this past October.

Both of Larrosa’s solo albums have been well received by the public and the critics alike. His song “Me quedo contigo” was highly praised by the OurStage community and made it into the Top 10 chart in the Latin Channel in June of 2010.

Feeling romantic? Surprise your significant other with an amorous serenata. Use this playlist with songs by Cristian Larrosa as an inspiration and surprise them by being a true Latin lover. ¡Provecho!

GuacaMuisc: A Bailar

If you love Latin music, you know there is nothing that complements it better than a good, sweaty Latin dance. Salsa, merengue, cumbia and bachata are only a few of the staple rhythms that get even the I-don’t-know-how-to-dance types moving.

As an avid fan of la música Latina, I am convinced that Latin dancing is good for the body as well as for the soul. I really don’t think there is nothing more rejuvenating than Salsa or more fun that a good merengue.  Unfortunately, many people are afraid to dance to Latin beats for fear of being ridiculed.  Others believe that, in order to be able to do it, they have to enroll themselves in expensive dance classes.

The truth is, Latin music was meant for dancing and everyone with a pair of shoes can do it, as long as the songs are good. Here on OurStage we have a number of very exciting Latin pieces that not only will get you moving, but will also make you the king or queen of any dance floor.

Let’s start with “Bailando!” by Kephas, an awesome piece that won the Latin Channel prize back in March and has been in the Top 10 charts for several months. Kephas is a songwriter, producer, guitarist and vocalist who was born in Miami. His parents emigrated from Cuba and raised him on the sounds of their homeland: urbane big bands easing effortlessly into the rhythms of Africa; the hushed sanctity of a Catholic mass contrasting with the rituals of Santería.

One song that will get even a rock dancing is “Me encantan todas” by Many Cepeda (also known as El Salsero Clásico), a song about a guy who is in love with every woman he sees. Check out Many’s OurStage profile for other great salsa pieces.

Samba anyone? For a more Brazilian type of dancing, play “Carnival” by Quinta Toka, a band that plays a crossover of different styles including samba, bossa nova and jazz. This song will lift your spirits anytime.

If you aren’t in the mood for salsa and prefer to dance “club style,” then play “Chica Elegante” by David Rolas and Crooked Stilo, or any song by DJ Prieto Black.

Are you dancing already? Here is a playlist that will make you never want to stop.

¡Provecho!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: The Perfect Holiday Playlist

Tomorrow is the first day of December, which means it’s time to amp up the holiday spirit!

If you’re sick of hearing Mariah Carey and the same old traditional holiday songs on repeat, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled a playlist of holiday songs—some originals and some covers—courtesy of our amazing OurStage rock artists. You can listen to each song in the player below!

1. Gidgets Ga Ga, “Christmas Wish” Chicago powerpop trio Gidgets Ga Ga dons acoustic guitars, tambourines and sleigh bells for this Christmas original.

2. Eddie de Pool, “Greensleeves” Eddie de Pool shows off his shredding skills on this holiday classic.

3. Allred,“Start Over” This somber Christmas tune is about forgiveness, growing up and loneliness during the holidays, but it’s Owl City feel makes for a warm delivery.

4. Wormburner“(Christmas) Bells of St. Ignatius” In the style of Foxy Shazam, Wormburner brings us a shuffling Christmas song about the holidays in New York City.

5. Endway, “Leaves Fall On Christmas” Beginning like a traditional carol, this song soon explodes with electric guitar energy from one of Boston’s best upcoming rock bands.

6. Austin Renfroe, “Brand New Christmas” Singer-songwriter Austin Renfroe brings us a soulful and passionate pop rock Christmas song about appreciating the holidays.

7. WHY, “Can’t Everyday Be Like Xmas?” Canadian rockers WHY ponders the question every child asks during the holidays on this acoustic track.

8. The Hudson Branch, “White Christmas” The Chicago indie band’s acoustic spin on the Irving Berlin classic is perfect for a quiet December night.

9. Ryan LaPerle, “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” Hailing from New Hampshire, singer-songwriter Ryan LaPerle gives another Christmas classic an impressive acoustic makeover.

10. My First Tooth, “Sleet & Snow” What would the holidays be without the hope for snow? Indie pop group My First Tooth ends our playlist with a beautiful original song dedicated to winter weather.

Make sure to leave us a comment and let us know what songs are on your holiday playlists! And don’t forget to check out more holiday songs in our Holiday Channel!

Metal Monday: Songs for a Cold Winter

The temperatures in many areas of the United States  have been in free fall since Halloween, and that really only means one thing: winter is just around the corner. So, bust out your scarves and mittens, it’s only going to get colder. There are lots of activities that people like to do in the winter to stay cozy. For example, curling up with a good book by the fire or sipping some hot chocolate under some blankets on the couch while watching a movie. Sometimes, though, you just need to get your blood pumping to get warm, so here are six winter-themed songs that are sure to fire you up:

  1. Dead Winter Inside by The Neologist
  2. Premonitions of Winter by Apathy
  3. Icewind Blast by Icewind Blast
  4. Ablaze All Shrines by December’s Cold Winter
  5. Cold Rapture by Fell On Black Days
  6. Frozen by Black Chapel

GuacaMusic: Alexandra Villar

You just broke up with someone you love. What is the best thing to do now?

a)    Cry your eyes out

b)   Act as if nothing happened

c)    Go partying and dance the night away

You guessed C, right? Latin music will always advocate for partying as a remedy to even the most complicated of all problems. And this is actually what artist Alexandra Villar invites us to do with her song “De Fiesta”, one of our favorite Latin tracks in the last few months.

OurStage artist Alexandra Villar has many reasons to be in the mood to party.  “De Fiesta” has landed in the Top 10 Latin charts several times, and is a favorite among OurStage fans.

Alexandra’s unique talent combines different musical influences from Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the US. In her OurStage profile, she describes herself as an “artist of fusions” and explains that her music is an expression of the “new woman, one that is accompanied by her lifelong dream.”

If you know a little bit about Alexandra’s background, you will understand why music has always been her dream. She was the lead vocalist and guitarist of the group Lapizlázuli for over six years, and then finally released her first solo album Sentir under the independent label Ítoko Records.

Through her songs, Alexandra aims to motivate listeners to be optimistic even in the most adverse circumstances. Like “De Fiesta”, some of her other songs portray the ambivalence of feeling low while staying positive and hopeful.

If you are in the mood to party, and especially if you aren’t, listen to this playlist and remember that La Fiesta is the best remedy for a broken heart. ¡Provecho!

Metal Monday: Drown Out The Noise Study Playlist

It’s getting to be that time of the year when every student’s life is a blur of red-eye study sessions and caffeine binges—that’s right, midterms. Now, some people prefer to study in serene library settings, others like to study with the television on and others like to study to music. Some listen to classical, some listen to singer-songwriter; others just want to blast some metal to drown out all of their loud party-hard roommates or counteract the perpetual construction that seems to be happening outside their window. Well, I’ve got good news! Here are ten great metal songs to help you drown out the noise and get your study on.

  1. “Victory” by Dargolf Metzgore
  2. “Bringers of the Dawn” by Jack Ketch
  3. “Forged Within” by Aethere
  4. “Introducing Atrophy” by As Sick As Us
  5. “A New Design (feat. Justin Hill of SikTh)” by Hero In Error
  6. “CyberGore Generation” by Illidiance
  7. “Happiness is Deceit” by Bless The Child
  8. “Beyond Grey” by Silent Descent
  9. “Waking Lucaya” by A Catalyst for Destruction
  10. “My Name is Fire” by Speak of the Devil

GuacaMusic: Rico Merengue

Are you in the mood for dessert? Try a rico merengue!

Don’t get confused. You could mix whipped egg whites with sugar and a touch of vanilla to get a taste of meringue, or you could play a tambora and maintain a 2/4 beat to savor merengue, a type of music and dance from the Dominican Republic that could have gotten its name from this delicious dessert. There are many theories behind the name of this music, but our favorite is the one that insists it has to do with how the movement on the dance floor reflects an egg beater in action.

If movement is what you are looking for, you have come to the right place. Here on OurStage, we have some mouth-watering merengue songs that will get you dancing before you can say “egg whites.”

Put your dance shoes on and listen to this playlist that includes the greatest merengue on OurStage: “El Vergel” by KORA, “Caña Dulce” by Nelson Polanco, “Having a Party” by Sugarcane Rush, “Perdiste Tu” by Juan Esteban & The Premium Band, and “Hasta que termine la noche” by KAMPA.

After that, read on for some facts about merengue dancing!

If you played these songs and aren’t dancing already, get motivated by these fascinating details:

  • Traditional merengue dancing is characterized by a stylized limping step. Legend tells that the style was developed to imitate a wounded war hero who danced with a limp.
  • Merengue is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet.
  • The original merengue was not danced by individual couples, but rather as a circle dance.
  • Merengue music is closely related to the similarly named méringue, native to Haiti.
  • Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who came to power in the Dominican Republic in 1930, declared merengue dancing and music as the official national forms.

Enjoy this savory treat ¡Provecho!

GuacaMusic: Reggaetoneros!

You’ve listened to it, you’ve even danced to it (or attempted to), but do you really know how to sing reggaeton? And most importantly, do you know what those lyrics mean?

From Daddy Yankee to Don Omar, you probably know at least one reggaeton artist. Most likely, you are also familiar with a couple of reggaeton moves (if you don’t, please learn one ASAP by clicking here). However, only a few lucky ones know how to sing this type of urban music, that combines reggae and dancehall with salsa, merengue, latin pop, cumbia, bachata and others.

You don’t necessarily need to be fluent in Spanish to understand a few of the most common reggaeton lyrics. If you are willing to let yourself go and want to learn how to sing—and even write—decent reggaeton, you’ve come to the right place. Here on OurStage, we have some great reggaetoneros, whose lyrics really make you want to get up and sing!

Ready?

Let’s start with two of the most common themes in reggaeton lyrics: Love and Lust, a.k.a. Amor y Pasión. Any experienced reggaetonero knows that you can never go wrong when using the phrases te amo (I love you) te deseo (I want you) or even the more lonely te extranio (I miss you). Take, for example, “Yo Te Quiro” by Wisin Y Yandel or “Amor En La Pista“ (Love On The Dance Floor) by Tito Y Soylo, a dynamic duo from Caye, Puerto Rico that has put their own stamp on the world of reggaeton.

Love and lust go hand in hand with another one of reggaeton’s main topics: Women, or better said mujeres. Although some reggaetoneros have been accused of humiliating women in their songs, that isn’t the case with Tito Y Soylo. Play their song “Dos Mujeres” to empathize with a man who can’t choose between two loves.

In reggaeton world, las mujeres are a big part of la fiesta, another main theme in a lot of its songs. When planning your next social gathering, please do not rule out OurStage hits like “El Party” by Profecia Feat Fenomeno, or “Vamos Pal Party” by Kitana.

As a consequence of all that partying and loving, reggaetoneros sometimes get into trouble. Pay close attention to the lyrics in “Disen y Comentan” (Translation: “They say and they comment”) by Yohan, a song about a guy fairing death as he is being chased by someone who wants to harm him.

The good thing about learning how to sing reggeaton when you aren’t fluent in Spanish is that one word can be repeated many times. Take the song “Siguelo” by OurStage artist Funky. Once you learn the word “Siguelo” (which means “Follow it”) you will be able to at least mumble this song

Got it? Singing reggaeton isn’t as threatening as it seems! Go get your Spanish dictionary if you need more inspiration, but don’t forget many of the songs are highly metaphorical, so choose your words wisely. Enjoy this playlist!

 


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