Three historic Latinx albums you should be listening to

There are few better ways to acknowledge the richness of Latinx heritage than through music. The ever-shifting cultures of Latin America have created, altered and improved countless musical genres and have produced some of the most memorable and internationally-renowned albums of all time. Whether through genres wholly unique to one nation or through the reimagining of foreign musical styles, these albums showcase the brilliance and creativity of Latinx artists.

Generoso Jiménez – “Generoso Que Buen Toca Usted” (2001)

The music of Jiménez — commonly referred to as ‘Tojo’ — can be described using only one word: joyful. His final arrangement before his passing proudly waves the colors of his native Cuba and sets the standard for the descarga rhythms he helped to popularize.

The stage is set with the title track, “Vengo Con Sed.” Within the first seconds of the record, conga drums play out an easygoing rhythm, horns blare cheerfully and a chorus belts out a delightfully catchy melody. Jiménez and his band need no warm-up — they want their listeners on their feet immediately.

During the record’s more peaceful moments — songs such as “Eso Es Un Trombon” and “Linda Melodia,” this desire refuses to fade. These tracks feel designed to represent another, more serene side of Cuba. Jiménez’s compositions feel more like a tour than an album, each song a new scene to explore. Despite running under forty minutes, “Generoso Que Buen Toca Usted” is a masterful composition that is more than the sum of its parts.

Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco – “Celia y Johnny” (1974)

Often credited for launching “The Queen of Salsa” to international fame, Cruz and Pacheco’s collaboration showcases the duo’s innate understanding of the magnetic potential of salsa music. In what was once a largely male-dominated genre, Cruz’s melodies demand attention and appreciation for their impressive range and charisma.

An often-unappreciated aspect of the album is the piano, which splits time improvising and following rote arrangement in songs like “El Paso Del Mulo.” By knowing when and where to stretch the muscles of salsa’s signature instrument, Cruz and Pacheco augment their own performances. When harmonizing in tracks such as “Quimbara,” Pacheco’s pleasant vocals compliment Cruz’s matriarchal charisma. Impressive careers followed for both performers, but it was this album that set the standard for their future work — and for salsa as a whole.

Café Tacvba – “Ré” (1994)

To say the premier album of indie rock outfit Café Tacvba is one of the greatest “rock en español” albums of all time does little justice to the four-man group. Instead, the innovation and diversity of the record declaratively announce it as deserving a spot amongst the elite rock albums of the nineties.

Despite its almost manic obsession with changing sounds and instrumentations, “Ré’s” sound is instantly recognizable. Café Tacvba seems to borrow peacemeal from countless genres — tracks jump from bouncy ska-inspired progression in “La ingrata” to effortless funk-grunge in “El ciclón.” Two decades later, “Ré” remains a celebration of all music and how it can delight, intrigue and move us.

Dolls represent the members of Café Tocvba on their album cover | Photo courtesy of Flickr