Review: Africa by Philip Montalban

Philip Montalban continues in the tradition Afro-Nicaraguan music with this cool album of Soca, Palo de Mayo, and Reggae from the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Singing in Spanish, English, and Misquito (a semi-indiginous language from the Misquito coast of Central America) Philip sings his songs of life from a struggling region of the world.

Originally from Bilwí (Puerto Cabesas in Spanish) on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, Philip Montalban is half Misquito indian and half Afro-Nicaraguan. In the semi-autonomous Atlantic Coast Region of Nicaragua live a people whose heritage is mixed, stemming from the co-mingling of escaped African slaves, black caribbean immigrants, Moravian missionaries, Native Americans, Victorian British traders, Garifunas, Dutch, English and Spanish pirates, and of course the dominant culture of the politically defined nation of Nicaragua. In Bluefields and the rest of la costa region, Nicaraguans from Managua and beyond are known as "paniaman" (translation: Spanish [speaking] men) in the very caribbean-sounding dialect of English that is commonly spoken, and since the official language is Spanish the costeños live an existence increasingly influenced by the dominant hegemonic culture of Nicaragua.

Coming this rich and diverse cultural background it makes sense how Montalban here explores the musics of his region and beyond. Having got his start in the 1980's revolutionary Afro-Nicaraguan reggae band "Soul Vibrations," who rose to the position of Official Band of the First Lady under the Sandinista government, Montalban is aware and proud of his African yet uniquely Nicaraguan heritage. Here in "Africa" he delves deeper into the true position he holds as a cultural liaison between Latin and caribbean music. Fluent in English, Spanish, and Misquito, he let's them all loose here among the various rhythms deployed. Palo de Mayo, a style specific to the Bluefields region of Nicaragua, gets it's roots from the Maypole dance brought over by the British who set up trade posts along the Atlantic coast. The soca that is so popular in Nicaragua and throughout the Caribbean is well represented here, as is Montalban's own favorite, Afro-Nicaraguan reggae as only he can play it. In fact, no International Reggae enthusiast can have a complete collection without this shining example of authentic Nicaraguan Reggae performed by one of the genre's groundbreaking founders Philip Montalban.

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