Puerto Plata

Mujer de Cabaret (Iaso Records)

Though the music on Mujer de Cabaret is arguably reminiscent of the Cuban Buena Vista Social Club, there are also clear elements of Dominican musical roots. Often José Cobles (a.k.a. Puerto Plata) plays acoustic merengue — for years seen as a poor man's version of the genre — and his words reflect the everyday concerns of simple campesinos. On the slow "Dolorita," he vows to pluck out his own eyes if he cheats on his beloved. On "La Cotorrita de Rosa," he relies on double entendre as he describes how a parakeet was "devoured" by three young men. Another highlight is "Los Piratas," a touching up-tempo piece that comments on 9/11, "a day of pain," in which he names Osama bin Laden "an enemy of his own people and of humanity."

Cobles is one of the few survivors of his generation of musicians, carrying on the tradition of his native acoustic music while radio stations favor more pop-inflected sounds. For American audiences, hearing him is like traveling back into far less complicated times.

 
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