Rumba Baby Rumba!

Bio Ritmo

Triloka / Mercury Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I don't often listen to it, but any time I get a chance to listen to some good Latin music, I immediately get hooked by the rhythm of the vocals (even if I don't know Spanish - proof you shouldn't listen to your high school guidance counselor) and the natural hooks of the beat. Whenever I need a quick pick-me-up, I head right into the Pierce Archives and grab a Gypsy Kings disc. Fifteen minutes later, my blahs are cured.

Add another group to that quick-cure list: Richmond, Virginia's Bio Ritmo, a wonderful little aggregate of musicians who crank out a wicked style of salsa and rumba music that will have you tapping your foot within seconds. Their latest release, Rumba Baby Rumba!, was my first taste of this band, and it sure won't be the last.

Led by Rene Herrera, a native of Cuba, Bio Ritmo not only strives to bring the joy of this style of music to the masses, but also to make it more accessible with occasional vocals in English. Their sense of humor is evident on the English tracks, such as on "Ugly" and "You Killed My Love". The single, "Call Me Up (644-7215)", isn't as strong as some other tracks, but the beat quickly locks you in and doesn't let go. (For anyone contemplating calling the number: If you call it - using the Richmond area code, I assume - you will reach a number where you can book the band.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But where Rumba Baby Rumba! succeeds is in its attack and presentation of salsa music in its own natural state. From the opening notes of "Yo Soy La Rumba," it's evident that there is sheer magic in this music. (What might be surprising to some people is the almost complete absence of guitars; I only heard a little Spanish guitar on one track.) Simply put, this is party music to the Nth degree, the album you put on when it's time to really let the fun loose.

How can you not be tantalized by the driving beats of "Bin Bin," the unique take on "Tequila" or the rhythmic poundings of "Una Palabra" and "Sientate Ahi"? Simple: resistance is futile. You can't help but get caught up in the flavor of this album, and you'll find yourself disappointed when the last notes of "Night Music" ring out. (The latter track is intriguing: a salsa spin on a Mozart work. Hmm...)

But in Bio Ritmo's strength lies its weakness: the fact that many people won't want to give Rumba Baby Rumba! a fair shake, 'cause it's not something you'd hear on Casey Kasem's countdowns. One word: cowards. Rumba Baby Rumba! is not just an album of world music, it is a celebration of the universal language of music, and is an album that should be experienced and savored (if not danced to). Think of this album as a different type of dance music; while it might not fit into the next rave party, it helps to show the roots of danceable music.

Rumba Baby Rumba! is an album that should be discovered by a group that should be revered in the circles of Latin and world music. If there were any justice in the world, Bio Ritmo would be rewarded with an album that was in the top half of the charts. If enough people give Rumba Baby Rumba! a fair shake, justice might be served. Undoubtedly one of the best albums I've listened to all year.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Triloka / Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.