With Calentura: Global Bassment, Fania Records’ resurgence as a top purveyor of the finest in Latin-inspired dance sounds has crystallized. The release features a slew of well-regarded DJs, producers, and artists, including but not limited to: 2015 Grammy nominees Bomba Estéreo, Major Lazer-affiliated Jillionaire, Buraka Som Sistema member and Enchufada Records boss Branko, Brooklyn’s Que Bajo party representer Uproot Andy, breakout global bass purveyors JSTJR and Happy Colors. The crew remixes legendary Fania artists, including Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, and Willie Colón. The album resurrects and re-envisions salsa and merengue through subgenres like salsa twerk, tropical trap, moombahton, and Afro-house, and in the process, Fania’s iconic legacy continues into the current age.
At present, Calentura is only known as a Fania and Jack Daniel’s monthly dance party in Los Angeles, promoted by the Late Night Laggers and Subsuelo crews. However, that local, site-specific movement gets flipped upside down on this album, thanks to Peruvian bass lords Dengue Dengue Dengue turning Justo Betancourt’s 1972 salsa smash “Pa Bravo Yo” into a tumbling and soulful cumbia-meets-footwork melange. It’s tracks like these that make Calentura actually feel like a catchall term for the evolution of Latin dance genres, as “salsa” once was for all things “Latin Motown.” With dark, heavy, and techno-inspired Afro-house takes by Branko on Celia Cruz’s “Herencia Africana” and NGUZUNGUZU’s remix of Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon’s “Timbalero,” the compilation’s patchwork sound suggests that 40 or even 10 years ago, these songs would’ve been completely unimaginable.
While the digital age has spread a fusion of organic Latin rhythms and booming bass across every corner of the globe, this electronic revolution may be best linked to moombahton. Thus, a track like JSTJR’s remix of Joey Pastrana’s “Orquestra Pastrana,” which feels slow and drops it low in a manner very familiar with global Top 40 tastes in 2016, demands a space on such a forward-thinking collection.
The trap-twerk sound, now quite apparent in mainstream pop (which emerged in roughly the same era as moombahton’s growth), is represented here too. Happy Colors’ remix of Celia Cruz’s “Virgencita” and Deejay Theory’s twerking and stomping transformation of Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe’s “La Murga” respectively evolve merengue and salsa into a multi-generational ass-shaking good time. The remix of Lavoe and Colon’s “Barrunto” from Brazilian producers Tropkillaz is a trap-anthem supreme, and between the horn chops, hard breaks, and festival builds, it’s a four-minute panic of a production.
But the true and oft-repeated excellence of this album is its deep exploration of classic Latin dance sounds and soulful house music. For example, Jose Marquez morphs Colón and Lavoe’s “Aguanile” into what can best be described as deep, shuffling “salsa house.” It’s a sound that feels bizarre in the best way at first, but it’s the ever-present sweeping four-on-the-floor rhythm that moves both the feet and the soul. Meanwhile, Jillionaire’s take on “Virgencita” is the closest thing to electro on the album, and even with its trap-style breaks it’s still far more soul-inspired than anything else. Throw in Bomba Estéreo’s breezy and grooving work on “Pa Colombiana” and the galloping yet seductive remix of the Lebron Brothers’ “Que Pana” from European underground heavyweights Ckrono and Slesh, and the depth and scope of sounds in the “house” world is more impressive than ever before.
In the near half-century since Fania Records’ establishment, Latin-inspired dance music has gone global and viral, growing both in subgenres and ubiquity. Thus, Calentura is important because it takes a snapshot of where we are now and remembers where we once were. By inspiring a series of masterful connections of history and culture via sound – in some ways expected, oftentimes seemingly unbelievable and almost perpetually impressive – it welcomes an amazing future for the next generation of Latin-inspired DJ and production stars on the rise.