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Live Reviews

Yoruba Soul Orchestra + Bajofondo
August 15, 2008

By Ernest Barteldes

Central Park Summerstage
New York City

The weather on the final weekend at Central Park  Summerstage might have been quite unforgiving, but that didn't affect the enthusiasm of those on or off stage on August 15 as the multi-ethnic Yoruba Soul Orchestra opened the proceedings that evening with a Portuguese-language funky tune clearly inspired by Brazilian samba-fusion pioneer Jorge Ben (now Ben Jor), and continued on the same groove with a song dedicated to Yemanjá, the mythical goddess of the sea. 


The band brought several guests, playing tunes in different languages. At one moment, they revisited 70s funk with a tune that sounded like early Earth, Wind & Fire. Another number titled “I Apologize” blended elements of AfroBeat, samba and rap, at which moment a duo of dancers came on stage, showcasing moves inspired both from capoeira and street dance.


The rain had finally stopped when Argentine-Uruguayan Bajofondo began their set. The stage went dark as violinist Javier Casalla came on, playing a traditional-sounding solo piece. The remaining bandmembers came on, and led by guitarist Gustavo Santaolla they played some material with a rockier edge, backed by a video display deftly handled by Verónica Loza, who also participates as a backing vocalist. One techno-inspired tune featured soccer narration of a soccer game, ending with a scream of “goal.”


The music played on stage sounded as if it belonged to a movie soundtrack, and the video imagery was fully integrated to the music. Though tango is clearly the essence of the music, they seem to go in various directions as they absorb influences from electronica, euro dance and other sounds, including hip-hop, which was integrated in Spanish and French into one of the more uptempo songs.


As the first part of the set ended, guitarist and arranger Gustavo Santaolla explained the band's origins, stating that all the musicians are also dedicated to solo projects – Juan  Campodónico also doubles as a producer and has worked with artists like Jorge Drexler,

the first (and so far only) Spanish-language Best Song winner in Oscars history. They t