David Byrne: Borderline Psycho

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

Psycho killer/Qu’est-ce que c’est? / Fa fa fa fa… you know the rest. Everybody remembers David Byrne from the Talking Heads era. They experimented mixing rock, funk, and African rhythms, aided by the electronic brain of Brian Eno. Keeping things very post-punk. There’s also the Byrne who wrote a very informed article about the future of music for Wired, which also published a conversation between him and Tom Yorke, reflecting over Radiohead’s move of making In Rainbows available for free in the web.

But this post is about Byrne’s Latin facet. Yes: there is one, and it has been present throughout his career. There is one album where he let it all out, though. In 1989, Byrne released Rei Momo, an album that actually looks like a catalog of Latin American music. There is mambo, rumba, salsa, and even cha cha cha. All these rhythms have a strangely authentic sound, which is actually not that good for the record. It’s as if Byrne didn’t know how to experiment from within them; it has too much of an outsider’s look, already evident in the all-encompassing selection, which almost makes it seem like a collection of folkloric samples from the whole region.

But we have to recognize that Byrne’s ear for Latin American music goes beyond this experiment. Luaka Bop, the record label that he founded, and which released Rei Momo, has also released the work of artists like Los Amigos Invisibles and Os Mutantes. He co-wrote a song with Selena –yes! And finally, in his album Look into the Eyeball, he collaborated with Rubén Albarrán of Café Tacvba, who went by the name Nrü at the time, producing the song “Desconocido Soy” –a real gem. Enjoy.

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Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at: Salvador@remezcla.com, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.