Updated: May 1
The COVID-19's lockdown period has been a time of grief, reflection, revival, and progression. Artists—especially DJs—have been forced to search deeper within their creative space and bring out dusty hit records to revive their inspiration.
During listening sessions, preparing for my weekly lockdown livestream "LA BASE", I enjoyed the grooves of timeless hit records I had not listened to in a while. One evening, I listened to a Latin song that made me reminisce about the annual Guantánamo's carnival celebration in Cuba back in the late '70s and early '80s. This record was the salsa piece "Buscando Guayaba" by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, which is the second song on side A from the album "Siembra" by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades released in 1978—under Fania Records.
Artwork, Illustration – Irene Perlicz
This composition took me back to my childhood days when I lived in Guantánamo (Cuba). During the late '70s and early '80s, I heard this song play everywhere in Guantánamo—especially during carnival times. I grew up next to Carlos Manuel De Céspedes street—a popular carnival road in Guantánamo. The "Siembra" album was playing back on heavy rotation from most record players, juke and boom boxes on this street. The "Siembra" project was a music collaboration between Willie Colón and Rubén Blades that produced a classic and original salsa album. The sonority of the music production featured on this album was revolutionary and inspirational in its time—and still is.
The "Siembra" album is composed by seven songs, but there are three songs that became popular in Cuba—these songs were "Plástico", "Pedro Navaja", and "Buscando Guayaba". The record "Plástico" presents an interesting musical production because it features a 16 bars intro of a disco-funk arrangement which was unusual in a salsa composition at the time. Nevertheless, it reflected the American disco-funk's musical influence these Latin musicians were exposed to whilst absorbing New York's music scene. In all, the "Sierra" album constituted a progressive step for the salsa music development in the Latin diaspora.
During March 2020's lockdown, when I listened to the song "Buscando Guayaba" (after such a long time), I got hooked up on it and played it over and over again.
I could just hear a dembow rhythm complimenting most of the song arrangement. This composition is a relatively slow (Adagietto) son montuno featuring a tempo of around 72 (or 148) RPM. The song's tempo and feel of the breakdown part (or bridge) inspired me to add an eight-measure trap's drum pattern during this section.
I just needed to find a way to make them both (dembow/trap) work together within the original arrangement. I did not feel the need to mash it up or change the song's original melodic/or harmonic feel. I like the way the original arrangement works, and I did not want to change that; except, I sped up its tempo up to 83 BPM (to enhance dance-floor appeal), and added an eight-measure intro/outro—to make it easier for DJs to mix in/out.
I used Logic Pro X for the production of the song's re-drum composition.
I avoided using loops in the final electronic drum-edit—the bombo, bass drum, snare drums, and hi-hats patterns were played (via midi controller) and programmed in the DAW. I did not quantise the midi regions because I wanted to create a human feel in the drum patterns as the song "Buscando Guayaba" is a live acoustic performance. The sonic aesthetics for this urban re-drummed groove has been conceived to retain the early '80s' Panamanian dembow style ( e.g. "Son Bow" by El General) overlapping with the trendy trap sound.
One major challenge I faced was to manually revise the position of midi regions in the grid. This revision helped me to maintain the tempo-feel of the groove throughout this composition, which presents subtly emotional tempo variations, typical of a live-acoustic music performance executed by human musicians (no robots). By keeping an organic electronic re-drummed mix, I supported the creative arrangement decisions made by the musicians and the musical director, in this case, Willie Colón.
I felt that adding electronic urban drums to this record would work well, and it would complement and refresh the original composition. Moreover, it would introduce this timeless hit to a broader and younger audience within the contemporary urban Latin and electronic music scene.
My drive to produce an urban re-drummed version of this song came from a genuine love for this record—triggered by childhood memories rather than commercial interest.
I encourage everyone who likes Latin music—especially salsa music—to listen to the 1978's album "Siembra" by Willie Colón and Ruben Blades under Fania Records. You will be mesmerised by the sonority, musical arrangement, vocal performance, and lyrical content featured on this project.
To listen to the re-drummed mix of "Buscando Guayaba" by DJ Green Papi's click on
the image below.