Migration, as seen from the migrant: That's the central message uniting the diverse voices on Viva Cackalacky!, a compilation of Latin music played and recorded in North Carolina. Collected by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill students in a class taught by associate professor David F. García, the disc is a mini-ethnography of musical styles, from Brazilian samba and bossa nova, to Mexican norteño and mariachi, from Colombian llanera and tropical salsa to merengue and hip-hop. As with each track here, even the Catholic liturgical music and Pentecostal preaching included find ways to add "Southern" inflections.
Geographically, the 19 tracks respresent Charlotte, Western North Carolina and the Triangle, though the latter produces the lion's share. Local notables include '90s Latin jazz pioneers Carnavalito, 2006 "Raleigh" hit makers Rey Norteño and The Beast's jazzy "Translation," a 2009 collaboration between the live hip-hop quartet and salsa ensemble Orquesta GarDel. The jewel here, however, is Pavelid Castañeda's "Gladis," an unreleased original due out on the Chapel Hill harpist's own album later this year. This loping Colombian porro composed for his wife, featuring Pavelid's son Edmar on cuatro guitar and Schlomi Cohen on soprano sax, exudes dark romanticism.
Himself a transplant to North Carolina from Los Angeles, García hopes the collection adds something new to the public discourse on immigration by focusing not on abstract policy debates but rather on the real, lived experiences of artists and their migrant communities. The result is a layer cake of genres, generations and geographies, encompassing Latinos and non-Latinos making music together by colliding aged traditions and new sounds.
A limited number of free copies of the compilation are available at isa.unc.edu/viva-cackalacky. You can also listen online.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Loud, live or Latin."