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Sur o No Sur
     

Sur o No Sur

by Kevin Johansen
 
Attention, fans of Manu Chao: Meet the latest peregrinating performer with a pan-Latin vision and a worldly wit. Kevin Johansen, the most popular Argentine rock star from Fairbanks, Alaska, has made a name for himself in his mother's home country with a playfully literate pampas pop that incorporates rock, soul, cumbia, tango, salsa, and more in one bilingual package.

Overview

Attention, fans of Manu Chao: Meet the latest peregrinating performer with a pan-Latin vision and a worldly wit. Kevin Johansen, the most popular Argentine rock star from Fairbanks, Alaska, has made a name for himself in his mother's home country with a playfully literate pampas pop that incorporates rock, soul, cumbia, tango, salsa, and more in one bilingual package. Sur o No Sur is an inviting mélange of languages and styles that not only recalls Manu Chao but Brazilian star Arnaldo Antunes (for whose basso profundo Johansen's voice is a ringer) and, in the artist's own estimation, Barry White and Nirvana. Each song, delivered largely on acoustic guitars, accordion, violin, and flute, is packed with clever references in both English and Spanish to topics both local and global -- enough of both to keep both gringos and porteños amused. On "Puerto Madero" Johansen neatly sums up the developing world's conundrum: "All the people who aren't from here would like to come and stay / And all the people who are from here just want to get away." Like the sensual dancer of "Cumbiera Intelectual" who name-drops Kurt Weill, Kant, and Cocteau -- "If I said, Let's to the movies, rica / She'd say, We'll see something by Kusturica" -- Johansen bridges sensibilities both arty and party-hearty with this engrossing international debut, easily one of the year's best.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jason Birchmeier
Quite an accomplishment, Kevin Johansen + the Nada's Sur o No Sur spans 20 tracks and innumerable ideas, resulting in one of the more interesting, creative, and eclectic Latin albums released by a major label during the early 2000s. Johansen sings, plays acoustic guitar, writes the songs, and fills the album with a wealth of witty wordplay. The guy lived in New York City for a decade, leaving the Big Apple for Buenos Aires after the recording of this album, so he's perfectly bilingual and shifts back and forth between Spanish, English, and Spanglish throughout Sur o No Sur. And not necessarily from one song to the next, either. Songs like "Star Estrella" find him flip-flopping between languages constantly, which can be fascinating if you enjoy such bilingual wordplay, especially when it's this witty. Johansen's wit extends beyond his wordplay to his music, also. Just as he plays with language and never ceases to surprise you with his usage, his songs are likewise playful. He and his band flip-flop musical styles the same way he does languages, from song to song certainly but sometimes also within the same song. This is a guy who purposefully circumvents convention, an act that is especially applicable to the often generic constraints of Latin music, with its laundry list of regional styles that often vary only on the basis of instrumentation, rhythm, or dance. So you get songs like "La Procesión," one of the album's most amazing moments: Johansen opens the song with an a cappella incantation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Give it away, give it away, give it away now/Give it away, give it away, give it away now") before breaking into an energetic hybrid of flamenco and cumbia topped off by some beautiful singing in Spanish. And this is just one song among 20, some of the other more interesting ones including the title track, "Star Estrella," "Down With My Baby" (a really fun song Johansen accurately describes as "Barry White meets Nirvana"), "Cumbiera Intelectual" (a great showcase of wit), and a cover of Serge Gainbourg's "La Chanson de Prevert" (sung in French, no less!). Sur o No Sur is the sort of album that's so overflowing with ideas -- some of them more successful than others, granted -- it offers new revelations with each listen, and the more studied you are in language and music, the more you're likely to appreciate Johansen's talent. This is exactly the sort of highly literate, multicultural music that critics and bohemians live for, the sort of music your more worldly friends are likely to force upon you ("I'll burn you a copy, you just gotta hear this!"), the sort of music coffeehouses and bookstores were built to play -- Sur o No Sur is that wonderful, quite an accomplishment indeed.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/18/2003
Label:
Sony U.S. Latin
UPC:
0037629318322
catalogNumber:
93183

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Kevin Johansen   Primary Artist
León Gieco   Guest Appearance
Kevin Johansen   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Glockenspiel,Sitar,Triangle,Vocals,Shaker,Bajo Sexto,Palo de Lluvia,Criolla
John Pinamonti   Electric Guitar
Javier Malocetti   Bass
Sebastian Schachtel   Piano,Accordion,Keyboards,Hammond Organ
Pedro Romero   Harmonica
Eduardo Prado   Clarinet
Juan Alvarez   Vocals,Coros
Javier Casalla   Violin
Osqui Amante   Bombo,Zurna
Pablo Mainetti   Bandoneon
Tommy Amante   Coros
Adi Azicri   Guitar,Trumpet,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Emilio Bertolini   Bateria
Gonzalo Garcia Blaya   Bajo Sexto
Katia Larchenko   Violin
Ernesto Lautz   Bombard
Buenos Aires Anti Social Club   Vocals
Mariano Massolo   Harmonica
Sebastián Cheba Massolo   Electric Guitar
Muñecos del Soho Porteño   Coros
Damián Dreizik   Vocals
Lucas Oveja Espina   Percussion
Luciana Godoy   Vocals,Voices,Coros
Andrea Hennings   Trombone
"Noruego" Johansen   Vocals,Bajo Sexto,Criolla
Octavio Johansen   Bass,Bajo Sexto
Adriana Kahn   Trumpet
Zurdo Roitzner   Drums,Bateria
Maximiliano Padin   Charango
Andrés Cayo Reboratti   Flute,Saxophone,Transverse Flute
Javier Tenenbaum   Harmonica
Christian Becker   Tuba

Technical Credits

Serge Gainsbourg   Composer
Frank Zappa   Liner Notes
Kevin Johansen   Arranger,Liner Notes
Pedro Romero   Executive Producer
Tom Lupo   Liner Notes
Osqui Amante   Engineer
Mark Twain   Liner Notes
Kevin Johansen   Composer
Juan Lo Bianco   Graphic Design
Manuel Schaller   Recording Assistant
Pedro Onetto   Arranger,Direction
Javier Tenenbaum   Executive Producer

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