Panamanian singer/songwriter/actor/ political activist Ruben Blades' latest album, Mundo, is a sweeping work intended to make a statement against racism and for global unity by fusing musical styles from all over the world. The tracks on this album mix Latin, Irish, Middle Eastern and African elements, and the globe-spanning compositions feature similarly far-flung musicians and instrumentation.
What's particularly interesting is the way Blades can take seemingly disparate elements, such as, say, Irish instruments and Latin rhythms, and combine them in ways that feel organic and unforced. On "Primogenio (Beginnings)" Uilleann pipes meet Latin percussion, while "A San Patricio (To Saint Patrick)" opens with bagpipes and then morphs into a spirited salsa. On "Bochinches (Gossip)," Middle Eastern, Gypsy and Latin elements are accented by Lalo Rojas' soprano saxophone, and the Brazilian group Boca Livre provides gorgeously soaring vocal harmonies on the Pat Metheny-Lyle Mays classic "The First Circle." Blades composed Spanish lyrics for the traditional Malian song "Jiri Son Bali," featuring the Argentine group De Boca En Boca, which transforms into a horn-accented mambo.
Most of the lyrics are in Spanish, so many listeners won't be able to understand them, but all listeners will be able to appreciate the richness of Mundo.