Oswin Chin Behilia
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Oswin Chin Behilia
Otrabanda Records ( www.otrabandarecords.com)

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Oswin Chin Behilia is the musical voice of Curaçao, a Caribbean island and former Dutch possession where both pleasures and issues that need addressing are found. For proof, look no further than the first two songs on his latest album, Liber. The first, “Zikinza,” takes its title from a children’s song about sawing wood and suggests that Curacao’s government is similarly sawing away at citizen’s benefits and rights by adhering to a colonial mentality. The second, “Buta la Pasta” (“Serve the Pasta”) might have some hidden meaning but seems to be about nothing more than an Italian woman with exceptional cooking skills (I defy you to read the translated lyrics and not get hungry). Differing subject matter aside, both songs ride a feel that’s more Afro-Cuban than Dutch Antillean. And the bulk of the remaining tracks do as well, making this the least Curaçao-sounding work I've heard yet from Behilia.

Not that you should assume the disc suffers as a result. Quite the opposite, really. The lilting feel of such songs as “Korupshon” (a word I assume needs no translation) adds irony and a defiant desire to dance, leaving you to wonder whether this disc was meant to be fun or serious in spite of itself and not caring one bit either way because the music is so good. It alls wraps up smartly with the Afro/calypso flavor of “Sigi Traha e Bom” (“Keep Working on the Bomb”), the final word in a continuum of anti-government sentiments set to melodies and rhythms as rich as anything that’s ever come from the West Indies. Curaçao and what goes on there are not foremost on the minds of the rest of the world, so Behilia seeks to set that right by giving us lyrics that tell the truth and music that radiates joy in spite of such truth. - Tom Orr

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