October 29, 2009 1:35 PM   Subscribe

What is some good tropical music?

I've been listening to El Guincho lately and I'm interested in getting more into "tropical" music, but I don't know where to begin. I'd prefer to listen to the "greats" rather than more modern stuff like El Guincho. I feel like tropical music as a label encompasses a really wide variety of sounds and locales, but the kind of music I'm looking for is really sunny and beach-y, that brings images of colorful parrots and palm trees. I'm not looking for anything you'd call "world music" (really commercial sounding stuff with house beats or whatever they add to try and make it appealing), if you understand my meaning.
posted by god particle to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Martin Denny.
posted by Xalf at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2009

Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound is an awesome compilation. I listen to it all the time.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2009

Well, Tropicana I'm sure is a word a lot of indigenous groups would probably take some offense at, as a lot of amazing tribal music has been reduced to cheesy shit they play on cruise ships. That said, I would absolutely start with some Gamelan, a traditional music from Indonesia that (thanks to Harry Partch) gained a sort of cult following amongst college students.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2009

I always hear the steelpan in my head when I think of "tropical" music. Steel drumming can make almost anything sound beachy and sunny.
posted by not_on_display at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2009

Walter Wanderley

Gabriel Romero
posted by vronsky at 1:50 PM on October 29, 2009

You might like mento music - I saw the Jolly Boys live many moons ago and it was quite something - bit rough and rambling, so might not suit all tastes.
posted by Abiezer at 1:54 PM on October 29, 2009

You might want to have a listen to some of the music labelled as Exotica - this extended from the 50s to the 60s and included work by the afore-mentioned Martin Denny as well as Les Baxter (my favourite). The artists tended to be very accomplished orchestral arrangers who wrote music which was inspired by their conception of tropical places: Brazil, Hawaii, Kenya, etc. Often they had not actually visited the places they wrote about.
posted by rongorongo at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2009

Calypso...your answer is Calypso.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2009

Nowadays I think dancehall when I think tropical, but YMMV. I also like Tispy (more loungy than you probably want, but they sample heavily from classic exotica tracks, and you'll have fun identifying the samples as you get into the older stuff B-) )
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:07 PM on October 29, 2009

Life in the Tropics — The Rippingtons
posted by netbros at 2:12 PM on October 29, 2009

You might like classic Cuban music and classic boogaloo (Latin/NY music from the 1960s and not the music currently called boogaloo). You might search for "El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico" and "Joe Cuba."
posted by PatoPata at 2:25 PM on October 29, 2009

A compilation put together by David Byrne called Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical .
posted by neuron at 2:25 PM on October 29, 2009

I don't know very much about Latin music, but I've been a longtime Tropico fan, thus it follows that Daniel Indart (who wrote/performed the game music) is worth checking out. It's basically traditional Dominican music. Very tropical sounding.
posted by crapmatic at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2009

The Cult Cargo discs on Numero Group are amazing stuff

and given you like El Guincho, you'll probably like the Little Joy stuff that Fabrizio Moretti has been putting out lately

Os Mutantes are also a classic, as are the classic brazilian boso nova musics and the Tropicalia explosion of caetano veloso + gilberto gil...

The Sea + the Cake is another contemporary band with some interesting stuff to check out and you also might want to sample the various work of producer Joe Meek

And i second (or third) the shout out to Mento Music
posted by neoist at 2:58 PM on October 29, 2009

You can try old style cumbia. Someone like Andrés Landero, for instance.

Also salsa. Willie Colón is pretty great. Or Héctor Lavoe. I am also fond of Angel Canales, although he isn't as well known. I just like the way he phrases things.

As far as brazilian music, that whole tropicalia period is insanely good. There is a good bbc documentary here. Caetano Veloso is great and very prolific. I would start with his Caetano Veloso from 1969 and go from there.

Gal Costa. Lately I feel drawn towards her A Todo Vapor. It's a live album, but gives a good overview of her multiple talents, that go from very quiet bossanovas to very unhinged psychedelic rock.

Also Jorge Ben. And Tom Zé. And, as previously mentioned, Os Mutantes.
posted by MrMisterio at 3:53 PM on October 29, 2009

I'd suggest Hawaiian Slack Key guitar. I really dig quite a few of the artists on Dancing Cat records.

Also, MINUS ONE for Jamaican Dancehall. Please do not support artists that advocate beating, torturing and burning gay people alive.
posted by Craig at 4:48 PM on October 29, 2009

Yup, Calypso -- Harry Belafonte. Oldy but goody.
posted by Bron at 6:00 PM on October 29, 2009

JMJ - Calypso. Apologies if it's too commercial/housy beats etc.
posted by tra at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2009

Maybe a bit retro, but I can't fail to plug my old Hawaiian favorites, The Brothers Cazimero.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:55 PM on October 29, 2009

please check out this truly awesome series of compilations: Gózalo! Bugalú Tropical Vol. 1, Vol. 2 & Vol. 3
The casual music enthusiast might not think that Peru was a hotbed of tropical music in the 1960s and 70s, but with an indigenous tradition of Afro-Latin percussion on the coast, and an obsession with mambo in the 50s, Peru was actually the perfect place for the Cuban and Nuyorican sounds of son, boogaloo, and guaracha to take root. The proximity of Colombia and Venezuela made sure that cumbia was popular as well.
The MAG label of producer Manuel A. Guerrero Silvestre captured this emerging pan-latino sound in Lima, with the help of a few visiting Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and South Americans. While artists like Mario Allison, Alfredo Linares, Nilo Espinosa, Silvestre Montes, Tito Chicoma, Charlie Palomares, Ñico Estrada, and Willie Marambio may not be household names in ‘el Norte’ YET, the tasty tunes they cut over 30 years ago are a rare treat for the Latin music enthusiast, and will finally come into the spotlight thanks to this compilation.
you can listen to samples off the first album here
posted by jammy at 5:37 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Toots and the Maytals.
posted by General Malaise at 5:52 AM on October 30, 2009

The World Passport podcasts are brilliant for tropical music - classics from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
posted by goo at 10:42 AM on October 30, 2009

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