By way of providing some background for Afropop contributor Ron Deutsch’s discussion with film director Abner Benaim on his forthcoming documentary on Ruben Blades, "Best of The Beat" revisits a review from Beat writer Robert Leaver’s “Noches Calientes” column back in 2002, of Blades’ boundary-pushing album Mundo, which later went on to win the 2003 Grammy Award for world music.
Blades is an extravagantly talented Panamanian salsa superstar/artist/bandleader/actor/attorney. The film, entitled Ruben Blades Is Not My Name, is in premieres now and should be distributed later this year.
Blades really was all over the map on this recording: taking ideas, styles and inspiration from sources as varied as Scottish/Irish/flamenco/Andalusian, intertwined with Afro-Cuban traditions and his mainstay, salsa.
Robert comments that on Mundo, Blades “goes one step further than he or anyone else has ever done, integrating Afro-Cuban, Arabic and Celtic music into a totally new musical expression… reconnecting the musical threads of Africa, Arabia, Europe and the Americas via the trek of the Moors and the Middle Passage.”
With instrumentation ranging from bagpipes to didgeridoo to strings and horns, along with Blades’ expressive voice, this eclectic gem deserves a new listen to better comprehend Ruben Blades’ wide-ranging talents.