Ruben Blades won a Grammy for Best World Album, for his epic work Mundo released in 2002. The Panama born Salsa artist has moved far from his Fania All Star Roots and has incorporated Latin, Celtic, Middle Eastern, African, Afro-Cuban, Jazz and Flamenco Music. His Mundo is built on a rich bed of sonic possibilities provided by a diverse group of World Artists including Editus Ensemble, an Instrumental group from Costa Rica. Also featured is a Vocal Group from Brazil - Boca Livre- literally Free Mouth , Boca en Boca a group of Women vocalists- from Argentina, soprano Lupa Mason and Irish musician Eric Reigler as well as a full String section, a didgeridoo and many invited musicians including Bobby Allende and Mark Quiones on Percussion.
Then there is the man Ruben Blades who has been blessed with rich gifts by the creator including Intelligence, Wit, Creativity, Strength, Passion and a Voice. He is not only a Salsa legend but has earned a Doctorate from Harvard in International Law, has been a force for Social Change using his music to educate and radicalize around political issues, and of course he is a consummate actor, composer and poet. This is also a man aware that in any Barrio in the USA, he could be stopped and asked for his green card and papers. His movie star status would not save him from the ravages of racist fury if he were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sets forth the vision of the possibility of a united world while being fully aware of the oppressive systems operating now.
This is all original music by Blades in collaboration with Walter Flores except for a beautiful cover of the Lyle Mays-Pat Metheny classic- "First Circle" . Boca Livre is featured on this one creating magical vocal intertwining on wordless harmonies that summon up the feeling of flight. There is also a cover of Gilberto Gil’s "Oriente" recreated as "Consideracion" with a Spanish text composed by Blades and sung by Boca Livre.
On " Estampa" he is exploring the simple idea that since we all share the same basic DNA structure, we are of necessity more alike then different. We are all related, we are all family and we all spring from the same source. He sees the evidence of this common source in the music of the world saying " In the Incas Quena flute I hear Ireland, listen to Iran in the Bagpipes of Scotland. " The lyrics speak of a common African Ancestry.
"Primogenio" was composed with Walter Flores and uses Bagpipes, Bass flute, Cuban Guaguanco Rhythms, Accordion and Tres. The lyrics continue the theme of common ancestry using the African Orisha Eleggua as a poetic metaphor.
"Borinches" was originally a composition by Walter Flores with lyrics added by Blades. There is a distinct gypsy feel and Blades alters his voice to fit the Flamenco aesthetic. His clear silky Salsa voice becomes dark, rough and filled with mellismatic flourishes.
"Ella" also is based on a Flamenco feel. The lyrics are amazing, and as a woman I was deeply moved by the words who acknowledge the strength of the woman who loves him and completes him. He also admits how much he needs her strength and love. He says in the liner notes that he does not usually do songs that deal with personal love because he is a deeply private man. But he gets soulfully naked in these lyrics, poetry worthy of Pinero or Garcia Lorca.
With "Parao" we continue the Spanish sojourn with a piece inspired by the literary work by Isabel Fonesca "Bury Me Standing " about the struggles of the Gypsy people. There is also a rendition of Danny Boy dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy sung by Luba Mason fused with Afro-cuban Rhythms. "Jiri son Bali" is a Traditional Mali Song with Spanish lyrics by Blades and sung by Boca en Boca.
Rueben Blades is a man who has never allowed his personal celebrity to interfere with his self perceived mission. Music is more than notes arranged in order. Music at its best conveys the soul of the artist. Touching the soul of Ruben Blades through his music is a sensual and uplifting journey. After living with his music I have come to love and respect him and would love to give him his propers as a man who has stood for beauty, truth and Global Unity. Living in his Mundo is a joyful light filled experience.