Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives.

Label: Pharaway Sounds.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, many within the Spanish music industry realised that the next few years were hugely important for the future of Spanish music. What these songwriters, producer and musicians realised that music in Spain had to continue to evolve and reinvent itself. Standing still wasn’t an option.

Having realised this was half the battle. Now this group of singers, songwriters, producer and musicians set about reinventing Spanish music during the seventies and early eighties. During this period, they played their part in two of the most successful musical genres which epitomised everything that was good about modern Spanish music, rumba funk and flamenco pop. 

The two genres combined elements of traditional Spanish music with the best that American music in the seventies had to offer. In the seventies, this included the slick, sophistical and soulful sound of Philly Soul, which came to prominence in the early seventies and provided the soundtrack for the rest of the decade. Philly Soul’s influence could also be heard in the music being released by Salsoul Records from 1975 onwards. This was no surprise as The Salsoul Orchestra featured many of the original members of MFSB, which was Philadelphia International Records studio band, who played on many of the label’s most successful recordings. That was in the past, and now they were playing their part in the rise and rise of disco, which was also influencing rumba funk and flamenco pop producers.

Especially at labels like Belter Records and Discophon, who released some of the best Catalan rumba funk and flamenco pop during the seventies. Many of the rumba funk and flamenco pop productions released during the seventies were often heavily influenced by the sound of Philly Soul, Salsoul Records and disco. This includes many of the fourteen tracks on Rumbita Buena which was recently released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records.

It would’ve been easy to compile a compilation which featured some of the most successful rumba funk and flamenco pop productions released during the seventies. The only problem is that many people would be familiar with these songs. A much better idea was to dig deep into the Belter and Discophon archives and find fourteen oft-overlooked dancefloor fillers that featured on singles and albums during the seventies. Many people won’t be aware of the oft-overlooked hidden gems on Rumbita Buena which is described as the real gypsy funk sound. 

For newcomers to the gypsy funk sound this means a funky rhythm section, wah wah guitars, washes of swirling Hammond organ, an array of exotic percussion, stabs of brassy and soulful horns, and even occasional oriental and Latin influences. However, the stars of the show are the vocalists which range from gypsy princesses’ and teenage rumba stars to yé-yé singers and some of the many rumba pop bands who made a bid for fame and fortune during the seventies. They all feature on Rumbita Buena, which features carefully crafted rumba funk and flamenco pop.

Opening Rumbita Buena is Rumbita Tru, La, La which was the B-Side to Rumba Tres’ 1973 single on Belter Records It’s hard to believe that this irresistible and dancefloor friendly example of cinematic rumba funk was hidden away on a B-Side. However, forty-five years later and this long-lost hidden gem opens Rumbita Buena and sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation .  

Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” was at the peak of her powers during the first half of the seventies. She was a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop with a wild, energetic and frenzied dancing style. That was why Dolores Vargas was known as “La Terremoto” (The Earthquake) by her legions of fans. This talented and charismatic vocalist released Anana Hip as a single on the Belter Records in 1971. Tucked away on the B-Side was A La Pelota which features a driving, dramatic arrangement that veers between cinematic and funky.  Playing a leading role are the brassy horns and fuzzy, funky guitar which help drives the arrangement along as backing vocalist accompany  Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” as she unleashes a vocal powerhouse.

By the time actress and singer Rosa Morena released El Perepepepe as a single on Belter Records in 1970, she was an award-winning actress and a flamenco pop icon. Hidden away on the B-Side was the irresistible and hook-laden floor filler Quiero Café (I Want Coffee). It also featured on Rosa Morena’s debut album Échale Guindas Al Pavo when it was released in 1971.

Lola Flores’ recording career began in the mid-forties and by 1974, the fifty-one year old was a successful singer, actress and flamenco dancer. She had signed to the Belter Records in the early seventies, and in 1974 released La Bomba Gitana as single. It’s an explosive rumba track which features a vocal that is a mixture of energy, enthusiasm, power and passion, while a mesmeric bass, sci-fi sound effects and bursts of horns accompany Lola Flores’ vocal masterclass. 

When Barcelona born Agustín Abellán Malla embarked upon a career as a rumba singer he adopted the moniker Chango. His career started when he signed to the Barcelona based M (6) label where he released two singles. After that, Chango signed to Discophon in 1974, which was his home for the next four years. Later in 1974, Chango released Soy Como Soy, which featured the joyous and soulful rumba El Guapo on the B-Side. A year later in 1975, Chango released La Hija De Lola which featured the catchy Latin rumba-tinged Kikilibú on the B-Side. It’s another hidden gem and a reminder of Chango a talented singer and songwriter who never enjoyed the success his talent deserved.

Spanish rumba singer and guitarist Juan Castellón Jiménez was born in Madrid in 1948, and when he embarked upon a musical career dawned the alias El Noi. By 1975, the twenty-seven had released a string of singles, but nothing like the Catalan rumba Zorongo Rock. From the get-go, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding as wah wah guitars, stabs of dark, brassy horns, vibes, handclaps and array of percussion are joined by flute and a tambourine. They provide the backdrop for El Noi, on this glorious fusion of rumba, Latin and progressive funk rock which is one of the highlights of Rumbita Buena.

Very little is known of the studio band Los Candelos who also contribute two tracks to Rumbita Buena. The first is Te Estoy Amando Locamente where Los Candelos combine progressive rock with a flamenco vocals. This unlikely combination worked and featured on Rumba Caliente, the album Los Candelos released on Belter Records in 1974. The same year, 1974, Los Candelos contributed an impassioned and soulful cover of Bailen Mi Rumbita which featured on the compilation Arena Caliente (Hot Sand) which was released by Belter Records.

Although Lola Flores y Antonio González receive equal billing on Muchacho Barrigón, which was released as a single on Belter Records  in 1974, it’s actually Agustín Abellán Malla, a.k.a. Chango took charge of the lead vocal. Antonio González’s only contribution is adding backing vocals, while Lola Flores enters and showcases her skills during the second verse. From there, Lola Flores and Chango feed off each other, and drive each other to greater heights on a track that fuses rumba, seventies pop and a hint of funk.

Teresiya’s genre melting El Perro de San Roque which was penned by Lauren Postigo and released on Discophon in 1973, is very different to everything that has gone before on Rumbita Buena. It fuses gypsy yé-yé pop with funk which is combined with excerpts from The Ventures’ theme to Hawaii Five-0. Add to this, a myriad of yelps, washes of Hammond organ and the harmonies which accompany the yé-yé inspired vocal. While all this is an unlikely mixture it actually works, and is a reminder of how eclectic the music being made in Spain in the early seventies was.

Although Enrique Castellón Vargas was the elder brother of Dolores was, El Príncipe Gitano was known within Spanish musical circles as the gypsy prince. He was a successful actor and singer who released a number of albums, including El Príncipe Gitano on the Belter Records in 1975. It featured Jazz Gitano (Ay Amor) which despite its title has a much more gypsy than jazz-tinged sound. Despite that, it’s a memorable reminder of  EL Príncipe Gitano.

Genre-melting describes Mora Cantaora, which is a  song from La Marelu’s 1981 eponymous album. This was the eighth album that La Marelu had released for Discophon, which was home to her throughout a career that spanned nine years. However, one of the highlights of her 1981 album La Marelu was Mora Cantaora where she unleashes a powerful, emotive vocal on this rumba which features an exotic mixture of Arabian, Oriental and rock.

Closing Rumbita Buena is Triniá which featured on Dolores Abril’s La Parrala EP which was released on Belter in 1970. Dolores Abril delivers a powerful, emotive vocal against an arrangement that features a tantalising fusion of elements of flamenco, funky and pop. This ensures that the compilation ends on a high, 

For newcomers to rumba funk and flamenco pop, then Rumbita Buena which was recently released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records, is the perfect starting place. It features fourteen tracks from familiar faces and new names. This includes some of the giants of the giants rumba funk and flamenco pop. They’re joined by  artists who aren’t as well know, and others whose music failed to find the audience it deserved. However, the tracks by these artists are a welcome addition to Rumbita Buena, which is a lovingly curated compilation with a twist.

Unlike similar compilations, where the compiler fills the compilation with well known songs, Rumbita Buena features ft-overlooked dancefloor fillers. To find these songs, the compiler dug deep into the Belter and Discophon archives where they struck musical gold. Joining singles that had failed to find an audience were B-Sides, album tracks and songs from a compilation and an EP. These oft-overlooked dancefloor fillers and hidden gems ooze quality, but sadly, have lain in the vaults of Belter and Discophon since the seventies. Recently, they were dusted down and feature on Rumbita Buena which is the perfect introduction to rumba funk and flamenco pop, which were part of soundtrack to everyday life in Spain during the seventies and early eighties.

Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives.


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