The three original members of Chambao -- La Mari, El Edi, and Dani -- made waves in the world music scene with their new brand of flamenco, called flamenco chill, which combined the passion and vocal style of traditional Andalusian flamenco with elements of electronica, specifically chillout. Formed in the early morning hours of the 2001 summer solstice in Malaga, Spain, Chambao first appeared to the greater public on the 2002 Sony compilation Flamenco Chill, to which they contributed eight songs, featuring Mari on vocals and the others on the instrumentation. Two years later their first solo full-length, Endorfinas en la Mente, produced by Italian electronica expert Bob Benozzo, was released, followed the next year by Pokito a Poko, a record on which Dani contributed very little, as he left the group before it was finished. After touring for Pokito a Poko, Edi also decided to depart from the band, leaving Mari alone as the last remaining member. After successfully battling breast cancer, the singer returned to the stage and studio with Chambao, this time with a new seven-piece backing band. In 2007 the band released their fourth studio album Con Otro Aire. Frontwoman La Mari took the helm of composing, arranging and production duties and her African and Mexican influences are clearly audible throughout the record. Chambao returned five years later with their self titled fifth release. They enlisted Carlos Raya (Fito & Fitipaldis, M-Clan) on production duties whose sleek skills compliment the band’s ambient mixture of flamenco and electronic music.
© Marisa Brown /TiVo
© Marisa Brown /TiVo
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World - Released July 15, 2001 | Columbia
Chambao became much more of a straight-up Latin pop group following their breakout Flamenco Chill. The good news about this disc is that Mari's voice is better than ever, with nary a trace of nasality, burning up melody lines that would destroy most other Latin singers. The non-looping pop song format works well, allowing her to show off her pipes while delivering a nice set of quirky, intelligent lyrics. The bad news is (unsurprisingly) that half the time, the musical material just isn't there, and the destined-to-be-dated millennial production style often overcompensates, fighting the very freedom that Mari's voice now exudes. Edi, meanwhile, is completely buried, his flamenco guitar reduced to the cheesy accompaniment role that is all too prevalent in Latin romantic music. Dani is long gone, presumably after getting the hint that his contributions were completely disposable in this setting. That said, there are quite a few catchy moments on the disc. When Chambao pushes the boundaries a little -- particularly when they try to incorporate outside influences as on the ambient droning "Ulere" and the bubblegum "Roe por Escalera" -- they always succeed, albeit with pop gloss to spare. And on "Sueño y Muero," the group succeeds on sheer performance energy alone -- in the manner of most great Latin music. Even if the whole disc were as good as the high points (and probably just under half the tracks are that good), Chambao is now competing in a different market. People expecting the same esoteric coolness factor of Flamenco Chill will be disappointed. People expecting a simple, perhaps superficially sophisticated Latin pop record will be pleasantly surprised. © J. Chandler /TiVo
World - Released June 22, 2018 | Colores Nuevos Records