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Various Artists: Lamento Borincano

A fascinating two-CD set which surveys Puerto Rican music from 1916 to 1939 Lamento Borincano (Puerto Rican Lament) is a chronicle of a musical legacy not documented well enough. It is, as the subtitle says “A Tale of Two Cities,” San Juan and New York, where many Puerto Ricans landed, and has had a strong impact on. Danzas and the African-influenced bombas are among the rhythmic flavors here. The title track is a popular bolero written by Rafael Hernandez, after he had followed the migratory path to New York and penned a nostalgic lament for his home. That song is done by Canario y Su Grupo, and other groups on the collection include Sexteto Flores, Los Reyes de la Plena, Grupo Antillano and Conjunto Tipico Lad¡. The themes of many of the songs have to do with homesickness, and a sense of alienation from one’s surroundings, but all told in lyrical, lovely musical terms. The scratchiness of fidelity only serves to accent the historical genuineness of the listening experience: it’s all about revisiting a remote time and place with a surprisingly timeless emotional relevance.

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