Buyepongo, "Todo Mundo" (Buyepongo). Those hearing the Los Angeles band's new album minus any context could be forgiven for wondering about its origins. Opening with a reggae-tinged patios shout, a crooked kick-drum beat and a multi-lingual music-backed monologue, the record mixes so many instrumental dialects that their sound is tough to place. Is it from Bogotá or Bell? Tegucigalpa or Costa Mesa? Is that a hum of rumba echoing behind that cumbia beat?
The six-member band itself, founded by Edgar "Meshlee" Modesto, who sings while playing congas and guacharaca, cites traditional roots music of Central and South America. Specifically, the 12 tracks on "Todo Mundo" move with the percussive textures of Dominican merengue, Honduran punta and Colombian cumbia. But mixed within this rhythm is the West Coast hip-hop sensibility of the band's native L.A., where Buyepongo began in the mid-'00s.
If "Todo Mundo" sounds packed with influences, it's in fact loose and groove-heavy music. "Pegao" opens with a fluidity that suggests John Coltrane's classic quartet before jumping into an up-tempo, horn-punctuated dance number. The accordion-driven "Verde Monte" rolls with merengue propulsion as Modesto offers texture and guitarist Jorge Vallejo strums out an off-beat reggae rhythm.
But identifying the regional influences is a distraction. What matters is the buoyant energy that drives "Todo Mundo," and that's in abundance throughout.
Todo Mundo (All the World) begins with a brief spoken word introduction into the world of buyangú, backed by a soft beat and cool jazz sounds. It’s a cool segue into “Vamos a Gozar,” which starts off in a similar manner before flowing into a mix of merengue and funk. “Al Regresar” switches things up with its blend of Afrobeat percussion and chicha-style guitar work.
There are a handful of more traditional-sounding tracks on the album for lovers of the old-school, such as “Gorditas,” “Por Tu Amor,” and “Cumbia Pa Lali,” the only pure cumbia song on the album. There’s also a part in “Sin Parar” where the saxophone sounds like the breakdown in the Central American classic “Sopa De Caracol” by Banda Blanca.
Buyepongo also teases its future on the album with the track “Baté.” The song, which features Fernanda Ulibarri on backup vocals, clocks in at almost nine minutes and was recorded live from beginning to end without any rehearsals. The song “best represent[s] the sound and direction our music is going to,” explains Edgar. “‘Baté’ is not a merengue, it’s not a cumbia, it’s not punta.”
“The first time I heard Mulatu Astatke was in a friend’s car on my way to the World Stage in Leimert Park back in 2001,” says Buyepongo vocalist Edgar “Meshlee” Modesto about their new single. “The track was ‘Yègellé Tezeta,’ and as soon as those horns hit, I was floored. The sound of the organ still gives me goose bumps to this day. From that moment on, I became a fan of Mulatu, and was introduced to a whole new world of sound.”
Buyepongo, which means “to cause a ruckus,” is a group that pushes Latin music to the limit. With deep roots in South and Central America, Buyepongo draws heavily from pan-Latin music culture, taking their cues from traditional “roots” music. Influenced by the traditional sounds of Colombia, Haiti, Belize, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, their arrangements are of full of life, creating a vibrant sound that seamlessly fuses merengue, punta, and cumbia. The group’s pulse and power is built around the drum and guacharaca, giving them an upbeat tropical flare.
But, growing up as young Latinos in Southern California, band members were not only exposed to the music of their culture but also punk rock, classic reggae, jazz, funk, and sample-driven hip-hop. Even their name is a nod to the Wu-Tang Clan track “Bring da Ruckus.”
On January 17, Buyepongo is releasing a 45 on Soul Fiesta Records of “Maestros” b/w “Mulatu Para Ti,” a previously unreleased track that can be heard here for the first time.
“What I am most drawn to,” continues Modesto, “is how Mulatu seamlessly fuses Ethiopian sounds with Latin and American jazz, thus giving life to a musical genre known as Ethio-jazz. As a band originally know for cumbia, Buyepongo wanted to give its audience a taste of our musical roots and inspirations with the release of our 7-inch ‘Maestros.’ We wanted to present that if done right, music from opposite sides of the world can be combined to create a unique sound. So we took the bass line and saxophone riffs from Mulatu Astatke’s self-titled track ‘Mulatu,’ and blended them with some Buyepongo poly-rhythms to create what we call, ‘Mulatu Para Ti‘!
Los Angeles folks can check out their record release party this Saturday, January 17th, at La Cita, featuring all-vinyl DJ sets by B+ (Mochilla), Sloe Poke (The Root Down/Motown Mondays), Coleman (Mochilla), Roberto Fresko Castellanos (Listen Recovery/Barrio Funky), Renz De Madrugada (Listen Recovery), and SoulFiesta DJ Organixx (Soul Fiesta Records).
South Central band Buyepongo is known for digging deep into the neighborhood's Latin roots and serving up a new formula for grinding on the dance floor. They're inspired by Wu-Tang Clan and manage to live up to their name, which means, literally, "to cause a ruckus."
Originally formed in 2005, they sprung from Norwalk where the Metro Green Line ends, giving them access to Leimert Park's hip-hop scene Project Blowed. "Norwalk was all about skateboards and sports at a time when we were into Digable Planets and Native Tongues," explains vocalist Edgar Modesto. "When we got ahold of Madlib, that's when we realized where music can go, and it influenced us to dig deeper."
Buyepongo started as a cumbia and salsa band, but today they incorporate music from L.A.'s tight knit Garifuna punta scene -- which features West African influenced music from Central America.
The music's call-and-response style features a combination of drums with snares attached with wires above the drumheads, turtle shell percussion, and circular dancing, as well as the Garifuna dialect.
They make trips to Guatemala and Belize to make sure what they play in L.A. is real. "We stayed in the hood where Wikitravel told us not to and experienced their way of life," brags Modesto. One afternoon in Belize, local thugs shot at Buyepongo's roadie, believing his tattoos (incorrectly) to be gang related.
According to the band, punta and its seductive hip movements and back popping dances will be the next thing. "Its origin comes from celebrating new life when someone passes. It encourages you to make love and procreate," says Modesto.
Because of the lack of a local club consistently booking Central American artists, Buyepongo leased a loft at one point to host shows above a transmission shop on Hooper and Slauson Avenue. They named it South Central Beach. "South Central is black and brown and if it were on a beach it would feel like Bahia in Brazil," said drummer Roberto Navarro. People were afraid to make the trip at first, but after inviting some of L.A.'s best Latin DJ's -- including Ethos, Sloe Poke, and Fresko -- the grimy 300 capacity room was crammed. The parties went on until 7 in the morning.
The band is on a mission to build bridges with L.A's various communities and have seen their music celebrated in unexpected places. They say they were banned by LAPD from Art Walk for shutting down traffic with a dance party on 5th and Spring last summer, and they got b-boys breaking and popping at Chinatown's Beat Swap Meet.
Modesto says they often ask themselves: "Are we keeping it raw enough for Leimert Park?" (Click link above for full article)
If you have read my blogs in the past, you probably noticed I'm a big fan of Cumbia. So low and behold, bubbling in the city of Norwalk of all places, comes a band that sounds like they came straight from Magdalena, Colombia. They are called Buyepongo... (Click link above for full article)