Yuri Buenaventura Vagabundo
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Yuri Buenaventura

A commanding, expressive voice marks Colombian Yuri Buenaventura's latest commentary on contemporary issues, one whose depth reveals itself with repeated listening. Cultivating a public-spirited edge and demeanor, in the manner of Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes or Ruben Blades, Buenaventura sustains an inimitable style, favored by an immensely talented host of backing performers. "Mi America" offers a moving, quietly insistent revision of hemispheric power inequities. "Dónde Estás?" (where are you) is a brooding Cuban son dedicated to the voiceless, the downtrodden and the socially invisible. Buenaventura develops these themes further on "Hermanito" (little brother), a pensive tango-esque reflection on "the terror of a man imprisoned for what he thinks, the schools that are closing... it's the bombs and terror that destroy our people... the hate that divides us."

Buenaventura returns to the form on "Afrotango," marking the music's African roots. In a wry conversation with the vagabond of the title track, he creates a perfectly articulated, idiomatic French-language rendition of Paris café aesthetic style and social posture, with bandoneon and strings backing. (In a vocal duet with Cheo Feliciano, he reprises the song in equally expressive Spanish toward the end of the CD). "Neruda" is a brassy salsa salute to the indomitable spirit of the Chilean poet laureate, over a marvelous piano montuno, soulful brass, call-and-response vocal chorus, and a battery of Afro-Cuban percussion. "El Guerrero" (the warrior), "Terror" ("this hate that blinds us, humanity... there are millions of unemployed, and this too, I tell you, is terror"), and "Coqui" and "Paloma Taina" (an affectionate pairing of tributes to Puerto Rican liberty), offer further trenchant reflections upon the inequities and indifference that continue to color North-South relations. Vagabundo thus reveals Buenaventura as a gifted, versatile salsero whose uncanny, dramatic vocal mimicry and uncompromising social conscience mark this burnished, genuinely Pan American recording. - Michael Stone

Available from cdroots

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