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Bwana - Bwana CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.89 | 16 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Progressive rock music was indubitably a European thing that caught on in the Americas after the fact but while the US, Canada and even Argentina caught the bug and ran with it, it seems that most of the nations in the Western hemisphere didn't get the memo about the new game on the world's musical stage. Well some did and in the most unexpected places. While Nicaragua wasn't exactly ground zero for the 70s prog scene, there were a couple artists who forged their own way. Alfonso Noel Lovo released his one and only prog rock album in 1973 but there was yet another artist the year before. BWANA (Swahili for "lord" or "sir") followed in the footsteps of Santana and delivered Nicaragua's answer to Carlos and company only with more of a psychedelic spin.

Not much has been known about this band and it was even assumed that they hailed from Colombia but over the decades it has been discovered that they actually came from Nicaragua. The band released only one self-titled album in 1972 which consisted of six energetic Latin funk loving members. The instrumentation is quite like Santana with the usual guitar, bass, organ and Latin percussion (tumbas, bongos, congas, timbales etc) and a completely groovy set of seven tracks that prove they actually existed. The band was short lived and disbanded after the great earthquake that hit Nicaragua that hit in December 1972 and took this band's career down with lots of infrastructure.

BWANA was a get-down feel good psychedelic-fuink-jazz-rock band that produced one excellent album that really could be mistaken for some long lost sessions of Santana themselves. It should be remembered that the style of music that Santana cranked out became popular merely because of Woodstock and that the Latin funk rock scene was quite popular all throughout the 60s. While Santana did take it into more progressive pastures, many bands in Latin America found inspiration albeit no ways of recording them. BWANA was one of the exceptions and despite the silly album cover that looks like a scene from Sesame Street for a lesson in diversity, the music on this one is infectious and oh yeah, a second album cover was issued for the CD reissue in 2001 which sported an "Abraxas" styled Santana cover as if they needed any more comparisons.

It is true that BWANA deliver a style of jazzy funk rock that Santana had made their own and much of this album does indeed like it is the alternative reality of the "Abraxis" era. It's got the same funk driven grooves, the same organ rich 60s touch and Latin percussion galore! What does set BWANA apart from their more famous counterparts is that BWANA takes the music into more psychedelic arenas, in fact, THIS is the kind of music i always though Carlos and friends SHOULD have engaged in on their first two albums. There is still plenty of freeform percussive jamming especially on the thirteen minute closer "Lolita" which provides a lengthy workout, but the psychedelia is much richer here. "Chapumbambe" for example suddenly changes from a Latin rock track into a fully fueled psychedelic freakout that sounds more like Amon Duul II or Pink Floyd's "Saucerful Of Secrets."

That was just an anomaly though. The majority of BWANA is made up of extremely catchy Latin rock laced with funk and psychedelic rock organ runs. While this may lack originality and really make you think you found an archival Santana release, this music is just beautifully presented and carries on a tradition that preceded Santana therefore derives from the same influences that Carlos utilized for his own guitar fueled Latin rock. The guitar on BWANA is also more psychedelic and less oriented towards the soloing that Santana implemented but in the percussion and rhythm section, they are pretty much in the same boat. This is somewhat of an obscurity since Santana pretty much stole the show and became the sole ambassador of this style of music but BWANA craft an equally delicious slice of Central American jazzy funk rock. A welcome surprise but Latin music rarely disappoints i have discovered.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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