Pachanga Tour Feat. Bomba Estéreo, Los Rakas, Bombón Houston Warehouse Live September 12, 2014
"Maaannn.... We've got a million stories!" proclaimed Raka Rich as we chilled in the Los Rakas green room at Warehouse Live last Friday night. Stories about meeting fellow Panameño musician El General at the "white people gym" back in Panama, how Scarface and Devin the Dude are their favorite Houston-based rappers, and how a bird mysteriously fell from the sky during the video shoot for their just released remix of Wiz Khalifa's "We Dem Boyz."
Within the last few years, Rich and his cousin Raka Dun have elevated themselves to the top of the Latin charts with their energetic and light-hearted mix of hip-hop, reggaeton and other Latino-Caribbean sounds. Their name is derived from the Panamanian slang "Rakataka," which means "hood rat" or "ghetto." By reclaiming the term and wearing it proudly, they provide hope to everyone who hears their hip-shaking and motivational tracks.
They opened their set with exactly that remix, pumping up the crowd with the chant "Hola, hola, hola... Somos Los Rakas!" This was the third of four Texas tour stops with Bomba Esteréo, a collaboration production between Rich Garza's Pachanga Fest and Red Bull Panamerika. All parties involved have a combined mission: to celebrate and expand Latin America's vast and varied cultural and musical landscapes. With ambassadors such as Los Rakas, their shared goal is well within reach.
Every Los Rakas show is packed with the colorful attitude of their adopted hometown of Oakland, Calif. The duo flows between languages, cultures and genres with a natural and motivated ease, a big part of their appeal. They are not trying to be cool or fun or hyphy or street; they just are.
And it helps that their talent as lyricists and musicians is evident in every song they perform. We heard crowd favorites such as "Africana," "No Tan Listo," "Abrazame" and "Soy Raka," each delivered with boundless energy and corazón.
The headliners, Bomba Esteréo, are a foursome from Colombia billed as "Alternative Electro-Tropical." In all honesty, I expected more of a digital cumbia style, but instead was impressed by the experimental noise and dub-ish sounds they offered. Lead singer Liliana Saumet struck me as a free spirit wild child, something akin to M.I.A., with the naughtiness of Rhianna and a small portion of weirdness much like Lady Gaga. I remember seeing them very briefly at ACL a couple of years ago, and wanting to hear more, although I never got around to it.
With synths and reverb delays and drum machines, the band unleashed a furious and forceful sound, entrancing their fans who danced and sang along to much of their set. Most of the tracks performed on this night stemmed from 2012's Elegancia Tropical, an album full of supremely danceable rhythms and sensuality.
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They opened with "Pure Love" and "Caribbean Power," surprising those in the crowd who were hearing them for the first time. It was not your traditional Latin beats -- these were meant to be loud and rude, but had a certain sweetness.
The track "Pajaros" really showcased Saumet's vocal range, which was aided by two microphones that she held with a purpose as she jumping and dancing and crouching all over the stage as if possessed by the spirit of a hummingbird. She moved fluidly between soft and hard, a sweetheart with the ability to kick your ass if needed. The band played "Fuego" to close out their set, a hot and energetic track that celebrates the blending if cumbia, reggae and electronic music.
Once again, Pachanga Fest and Panamerika lived up to their names, providing top-notch Latino talent and a party no one will soon forget. ¡Arriba los Latinos!
And by the way, you already know Bombón Houston opened with the best musica para mover la colita. I will never tire of hearing them in action!
Personal Bias: Yo si soy! Yo si soy! Yo si soy! Raka!
The Crowd: Muchos Colombianos and friends of Red Bull.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Did the DJ just play a quebradita?! That's awesome!" -- a dude at the bar during Bombón Houston's opening set.
Random Notebook Dump: To Los Rakas, I will forever be "El Fotografo con el wireless." Earlier this year I ran into them in Miami and uploaded a photo to Instagram within a minute of capturing the image with my DSLR using my wireless SD card. It made me cool for a few minutes.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens towards the vibrant Houston music scene. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.
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