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Here's a prediction: Argentine musician Mati Zundel is about to become a household name among music lovers in the U.S. And let me be the first to say "we told you so." He's been a favorite of ours on NPR's Alt.Latino since we stumbled upon his mixtape Cuando Yo Bailo Tiembla La Tierra (When I Dance The Earth Trembles). We were speechless, stunned, and wanted more.
Zundel, who recently joined Waxploitation records, started off on one of my favorite record labels, the infallible ZZK. I am yet to find an artist on this label that I am not completely enamored with. Other ZZK stunners include Chancha Via Circuito and Tremor. And if some of these acts are roughly produced, they make it up in creativity.
Zundel hails from the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a town he describes as a mix of "gauchos and lawyers." He grew up on a steady diet of rock music, electronica and folk songs, plays guitar and traditional indigenous instruments like the charango and bajo zampoña. So he has a very eclectic musical palette to work with.
And on Amazonico Gravitante, it shows. Filled with Andean wind instruments and indigenous beats, sprinkled with cumbia (the lingua franca of Latin music), and just the right amount of club grooves, it belongs as much at a meditation session as it does at a dance party. Zundel's work follows a current trend in Latin music of finely meshing together cumbia, indigenous music and pounding electronica. In recent years artists like Zundel have done an amazing job melding genres which have traditionally eyed each other warily. When I was growing up in Buenos Aires, electronica/house/techno was seen as cosmopolitan music of kids with money; young kids who listened to folk tended to be associated more with a roots movement.
Zundel's "Aero Tinku," one of my favorite songs of the record, is a fantastic blend of Andean pan flutes and electronica. Like an exciting dish, it's a recipe that on paper might cause concern, but in practice sounds stunning.
Zundel is capable of creating a deeply relaxing song or a party anthem, but he is also perfectly able to pen an ode to Latin America, such as "Alto De La Paz", another favorite off this record. Often on Alt.Latino we've discussed how difficult it is for a musician to achieve a song that is both lyrically profound and musically infectious. "Alto De La Paz" is an example of a single that should be an instant club hit, but it's also a fighting song, an ode to the Latin American struggle.
In fact, with it's gorgeous tidbits of music from across the Latin continent, the entire album plays like an ode to Latin America. One thing is clear: Zundel is still making the earth tremble, and will be for many years to come.