Voltaje – Osmay Calvo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

As soon as the first gorgeous grooves hit your ears, you can hear the sound of a life dedicated to music playing out before you. You can picture a young boy wandering the streets of his Cuban home following the sound of the conga drums as he searched out the island’s folk music, Latin beats and tropical rhythms. And, years later, you can hear him ready to launch himself beyond his island home and take his infectious music to a wider, American audience.

And infectious is exactly the right word for the music that Calvo makes and on this latest album, there is no shortage of sassy moves and energetic grooves, bountiful beats and moments of sonic seduction. It also unintentionally says something about music and its ability to cross barriers, particularly language barriers.

It nmakes an interesting point about language barriers and music’s ability to navigate such obstacles with ease. Whereas music, especially that aimed at the modern mainstream audience, relies heavily on the direct communication of the lyrics to engage with the listener, take that connection away and it forces people to engage with the music in purely emotional terms. That is what makes Voltaje, for me at least, such an interesting prospect. It is sung in Spanish and I have very little skill in that language. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me appreciating the other factors, the more emotive and less tangible ones that make up the songs. It leaves me seduced by the gentle tones and textures that are woven through tracks like Ensename. It leaves me entranced by the vibrant energy and ornate layering of sounds on Haberte Conocido. It leaves me re-energised and excited by the euphoric vibes of El Voltaje. And it leaves me moving and grooving away to the lilting loveliness of Ya Te Olvide.

Lyrically, I have no idea about what is going on, but that doesn’t matter, this is an album that communicates as much through its rhythms as it does through its rhymes…perhaps more so. And even if I come to the wrong conclusions regarding what the songs are actually about…who cares? Certainly not me, I’m having too much fun just listening to these cool compositions.

All too often we listen to lyrics rather than the songs themselves but with the world becoming a smaller and more mixed place, culturally speaking, with English becoming less and less the go-to language to make music in, with more music reflecting an artist’s roots rather than their desired destination, we are going to have to start listening to music more holistically, more thoroughly and more appreciatively again. And that can only be a good thing. Right?

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