Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Ruben Blades' path to a brave new musical world has been a long time in the making.
It began with his earliest hit, "Pedro Navaja," a cinematic song recorded during his collaborative years with Willie Colon that defied radio formats and yet has become the biggest-selling single in salsa history. It continued with the socially conscious, sometimes wickedly funny material put forth with his band, Los Seis del Solar, in the '80s. And it plunged deeper with later, more experimental works, notably the Grammy Award-winning albums "La Rosa de los Vientos" (1996) and "Tiempos" (1999).
One could say it's all been in preparation for Blades' upcoming Sony Discos set, "Mundos" (Worlds), due out Sept. 17, an album in which -- no longer content with merely plumbing the depths of Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms -- Blades has decided to seek a "universal memory" of music and rhythm.
Blades, who began working on "Mundos" more than two years ago, originally conceived the project as a way to marry Irish and Latin rhythms. But in the process, the entire world got in the way. "I made a kind of map, where I began in the Northeast part of Africa, from Ethiopia, and I took that path to Asia Minor. I crossed part of Turkey, what today are independent Russian republics. I crossed toward Europe and then I jumped to America," Blades says. "During that voyage, I integrated these sounds."
They include Irish pipes, flamenco guitar, and the Australian didgeridoo working together with Blades' current band, the Editus Ensemble, a group of 11 young musicians with classical and jazz backgrounds that also worked on "Tiempos." But while "Tiempos" was essentially tropical in its explorations, "Mundos" is worldly, weaving influences and rhythms and even including a version of "Danny Boy" that begins in the traditional way and then dissolves into salsa.
"By virtue of what happened Sept. 11, I tried to do an album that beyond political opinions could reinforce brotherhood without preaching," Blades says. "We wanted to create a situation where people felt connected through music, through the union of instruments that are apparently at odds with each other."
Here are Ruben Blades' upcoming tour dates:
Sept. 26: Quito, Ecuador
Sept. 28: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Dec. 7: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Dec. 14: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Excerpted from the Sept. 7, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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