Creating playlists for Comal has been quite an adventure to say the least. In some ways, it’s been a microcosm of the overall experience. I’m a white guy who grew up in Maine with very little exposure to Latin culture, other than the fact that my father spent time in Mexico and makes a mean pot of beans. My wife Rachel likes to say that she’s “Latina on the inside” – she’s also fluent in Spanish and has spent lots of time traveling all over Mexico (side note: she may be the only wife who has ever pushed her husband to open a restaurant).
I’ve been passionate about Mexican food for years, but was hardly an expert when I decided to open Comal. And I’m still far from being an expert, but not being an expert means I have lots to learn and experience – not just about Mexican food, but about Mexican culture and by extension Latino culture. In many ways, the best thing for me about opening Comal is that it has set me on a path of discovery and exploration – and creating our playlists has been no exception.
I spent most of my adult life in the music business, but managed to emerge from that chapter with nearly no knowledge of Latin music. I knew that I wanted to feature great music from all points of the globe at Comal, but that clearly the focus should be Latin music – not just from Mexico but also from Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Spain, etc. I made some lucky connections with Latin music experts like Josh Norek, Jacob Edgar and Jose Ruiz, who have all helped accelerate my learning curve in different ways.
Now nearly six months in, I’m starting to get a toehold on the vast landscape of Latin music, both traditional and “alt”. It’s been refreshing to listen to so much new music as of late, especially music outside of my normal listening patterns. Our blog is a great way to share some of these discoveries.
First up, for no particular reason except the fact that I’m keen on his new album at the moment, is Campo (thanks Josh!). Campo is a nickname for Juan Campodónico, who was a founding member of the acclaimed Argentine electro-tango group Bajofondo Tango Club, and before that, a member of the Uruguayan thrash metal band Peyote Asesino. I haven’t explored Peyote Asesino’s music, but we have played some Bajofondo Tango Club at Comal as well. An accomplished producer in his own right, he has reinvented himself yet again as Campo, and recently scored a Latin Grammy nomination in the ‘Alternative’ category for his self-titled debut album. Campo’s latest music video (see link below) features guest vocals from fellow countryman Jorge Drexler, best known for contributing the Oscar-winning song “Al Otro Lado del Rio” to the film ‘The Motorcycle Diaries.’
We’ve had more than a few guests ask “who is this playing right now?” while Campo is playing – which isn’t surprising to me. It’s an infectious blend of old and new, mixing elements of tango and cumbia with pop and electronica accents. And the album cover is stellar too…
-JP (with help from Josh Norek)