Ancestral Afro-Venezuelan rhythms meet futuristic Latin jazz, funk and afrobeat on Raúl Monsalve y Los Forajidos’ exhilarating new ‘Bichos’ album for Olindo Records. Venezuelan bassist Raúl Monsalve leads an all-star ensemble of musical trailblazers including “the voice of Venezuela” Betsayda Machado, singer Luzmira Zerpa (Family Atlantica) and drummer Dave De Rose (Agile Experiments, Moloko, Mark Ronson).
Raúl Monsalve has dedicated much of his life to understanding and learning traditional Afro-Venezuelan music, and studying under some of its greatest proponents among the percussionists of his home country, whilst at the same time taking as much interest in the sounds emanating from the fearless edges of jazz, rock, African and early electronic music.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Monsalve played with a number of bands before forming the first incarnation of los Forajidos and self-releasing two increasingly popular albums. A move to Paris, via London, led to opportunities to share stages with a vast array of musical giants, not least of all the legendary Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius, as well as the Heliocentrics, Venezuelan master percussionist Orlando Poleo and members of Fela Kuti’s Afrika 70. Meanwhile a new line-up of Forajidos toured Europe and Monsalve had a hit on his hands with Olindo Records’ 2017 release of “Abeja” b/w “Black & Decker” on a sought-after 7” single. Since then, he has recorded and received critical acclaim with Paris-based Venezuelan avant-folk four-piece, Insólito UniVerso, whilst slowly putting together the pieces that would make up this new Forajidos album.
With producer/engineer/drummer Malcolm Catto (Heliocentrics, Quantic, Yussef Kamaal) behind the recording and mixing desk, Raul brought together a like-minded cast of friends from Venezuela, Paris and London, to help him create a fresh sound, capturing the essence of both the African and indigenous roots of Venezuelan music, and the forward- looking sounds of afrobeat, gritty Latin jazz and experimental electronic music. ‘Bichos’, Spanish for ‘vermin’, ‘bugs’, ‘beasts’ but also used in Venezuela to refer to someone as a “nasty piece of work”, draws all these strands together. The album uses a variety of animals, such as the mosquito, butterfly, pig, snake, rooster and flea, to represent a wide range
of human qualities, like greed, hate, love & compassion, and their impact on Venezuelan and worldwide corruption & division, the strengths of friendship, family, collaboration, rebellion and survival.
The ancient to future direction of Raul’s music is best captured on album opener “Malembe”, featuring Venezuelan folk group Vasallos Del Sol chanting over a razortooth synth bass, and “La Mariposa” (the butterfly), featuring singer Lya Bonilla. The Afro Venezuelan ‘sangueo’, a traditional invocation to dance in celebration of Saint John the Baptist, is given a brand new funk The polyrhythmic quitiplás percussion of Monsalve’s home country, created by hammering the ground with various lengths of bamboo tubes in a particular manner, compliments the afrobeat-feel of “Bocón”, where Family Atlantica’s Luzmira Zerpa leads the call-and-response. Acclaimed singer, Betsayda Machado, is magnificent on the Afro Venezuelan funk of “Mosquito”, attacking the “blood-sucking” politicians afflicting populations across the world, but particularly in Venezuela. Closing the record, “Pa’ Los Maestros” is a funked-up cha-cha groove dedicated to the maestros, or masters, of Afro-Latin culture and music.