The only unifying theme seems to be that the music comes from hot tropical countries with cool music, or is inspired by the great musical cultures of Africa & Latin America, and the tracks are pretty obscure.
Learn about the amazing musicians making stimulating music that blends Tropical music traditions from around the world with modern music styles. Watch live videos that show these bands doing what they do best. Listen to these two Tropical Music Spotify playlists I created for your listening pleasure. Get into funky African music, Cumbia, sensational Salsa, Soukous, and more tremendous tropical Funk flavors…
Travelling Tropical Music Crate Diggers
Do a Spotify search for label:strut etc. Then, click albums and start searching for tons of distinctive, dynamic Tropical Music. They all appear several times throughout these two playlists.
These guys put months (if not years) into perfectly curating compilations. Often times, they’ll go to distant towns in Africa, for example, to dig for original vinyl LPs in remote record shops. They find the original musicians, befriend them, and get a hold of the master tapes when available. They diligently get the proper rights to the music, and pay the artists well.
Visit their label websites above because they have web stores from which you can buy the vinyl. They always carefully write the liner notes, create cool artwork, and provide supplemental interviews & videos with the musicians when possible. Their compilations on vinyl are a valuable addition to the collection of any fan of funky music from around the world.
Prepare yourselves for a bunch of dope tunes whose only real unifying theme is that they come from tropical places, or are inspired by them, and the music makes you feel fabulous. Then, do some searching on your own…
Watch Vaudou Game giving it up for the gods in this music video for
“Pas Contente” — a passionate, powerhouse of Afro-Funk,
and a fantastic France/Togo hybrid…
Tropical Music Playlists —
Bursting With Tropical Funk Flavor
Dig these Tropical Sounds and escape to places exotic…
So get into these “Tropical” grooves representing a lot of Latin America, Africa & the Caribbean. In this first Spotify playlist, we’ll start it out in a Latin kind of way, get progressively African, and take off to Jamaica.
Tropical Funk L.A. Style
The first couple of tunes come from not-tropical Los Angeles (but it is pretty warm & funky there, as well as, a melting pot of tropical cultures).
DJ Nu-Mark & Quantic, two of the finest purveyors of Tropical Music to gringo ears, make a masterful mix of Latin flavored samples, Caribbean steel drums, Cumbia accordions, Brazilian grooves, and live loops on “Tropicalifornia.”
L.A. band, Jungle Fire, knows how to combine Cuban, other Afro-Latin rhythms, and modern Funk like nobody else. Their debut album, Tropicoso, was my favorite album of 2014. They appear here with the title track.
Watch this video to learn more about their tropical Funk flavor, Afro-Latin influences, and how Jungle Fire makes amazing music…
Listen to his fast & furious percussion storm, “Hotel Alyssa Soussi” from the compilation, Latin Beats: A Tribute to Tito Puente, from Mr Bongo Records (another remarkable resource for exploring tropical music, especially Brazilian beats).
Musica Latina Moderna en Bogotá
Mojarra Electrica is an exciting band from Bogotá that fuses various Colombian musical traditions in the capital city. Their take on Cumbia, Champeta, Hip-Hop en Español, Rock & Funk is dynamic and skillful. These passionate musicians know how to get the party started! “Paticua” blends various styles together into one high-energy instrumental jam.
Old School Amazonian Psychedelia
Los Destellos are an old school Peruvian psychedelic Cumbia & Chicha band. Their instrumentals are filled with rolling percussion and radical, reverby guitar playing. In Spanish, descarga, means to jam. “Descarga Destellos” is a potent breakdown of Afro-Peruvian rhythm & rad guitar licks. It sums up in one song what this brilliant band is all about.
Miami’s Tropical Funk
Check out The Spam Allstars‘ take on Cuban Charanga — “Charanga E-350.” They are from Miami, the tropical part of the USA. They haven’t made a new album in a long time, so check out their back catalog here. They play fun shows around Miami all the time so go hear them live if you are ever down there. When I lived in South Beach I used to love going to their events.
PALO! was nominated for a 2015 Grammy and a Latin Grammy for their album PALO! Live. They perform their own style of Tropical Music they call “Afro-Cuban Funk.” Just think “funky, jazzed-up Salsa”, or better yet, listen to some of their music on gopalo.com. The group’s unique, danceable sound blends the allure of Cuban music with funky beats and jazzy improvisation. Listen to them sing about sabrosa Cuban cuisine in “Para Chuparte Los Dedos” in this Spotify playlist.
Rumberos de la 8, a breath-taking band born on the streets of Miami, is an all-star group of percussionists and singers hailing from Cuba and Puerto Rico. They perform each week with Spam Allstars at their residency at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana. Listen to their killer Latin percussion jam, “Descarga 8.” Calle 8 is the lively main street passing through Miami’s Little Havana.
Salsa Dura Para Las Orishas
What’s a Tropical Music playlist without some Salsa? Enjoy a hot Salsa number from one of my favorite Fania Allstars, Roberto Roena. “Oriza Eh” cooks! It’s a high-energy number incorporating various tropical rhythms and gives it up to las orishas. Just try to hold still.
Fun Brazilian Country Music
Mestre Cupijó was a Brazilian superstar from the hinterlands of Pará, playing the region’s typical music, Siriá. He founded the band Jazz Orquestra os Azes do Ritmo with the goal of reinventing Siriá and modernizing Samba de Cacete, Banguê and other folkloric music of the state of Pará. Airwaves from the Caribbean and Latin America had also brought the Cumbia sound of the mighty Colombian orchestras, Merengue from the Dominican Republic and Cuban music to the Amazon. All of which had an impact on the music of Northern Brazil — Mambo especially!
How’s that for Tropical Music pedigree?!
Analog Africa put together an excellent compilation of his marvelous music — Siriá by Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo (The Mythical Sound of Northern Brazil). You can buy the vinyl here.
Bixiga 70, a mind-blowing current Brazilian band, might just be my favorite tropical music group right now. They are making music prolifically and touring non-stop. “Kalimba” comes from their 2014 album, Ocupai, which I picked as one of the year’s best. They also made my #1 favorite record of 2015. These guys are on fire!
Their music is built on a West African, Afrobeat, Brazilian music foundation — mixing in lots of tropical elements, Jazz, Rock and Funk. “Kalimba,” to my ears, sounds the most tropical on this record because the guitar playing reminds me of the Central African Soukous guitar, and the soaring horn section blows you away like the best of the African, Brazilian, or Cuban big bands. And, all with a remarkably modern vibe.
“Bukom Mashie” comes from Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk & Fusion in 70’s Ghana, the iconic West African Funk compilation on Soundway Records that’s been the gateway drug for many Tropical Music addicts. This song features some of the funkiest flute work you’ll ever hear, robust percussion rolling along the whole song, vigorous horn stabs, and impressive singing you don’t have to understand to feel its strength.
Analog Africa does it again on Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 by Verckys et l´Orchestre Vévé. The Congo was jamming in the 70s! From the Rumble In The Jungle (and its accompanying music festival) to the nightclubs of Kinshasa, the Congolese Rumba craze & Soukous became the country’s most famous exports.
Verckys, a musical prodigy & former protege of the great Franco, sought to modernize the music and made some of the most beloved recordings of the era. “Nakobala Yo Denise” starts off mellow, and builds up to a complex marriage of horns, percussion, glorious guitars, and some funky organ that give you that warm feeling of being somewhere tropical, exotic, intriguing, and
adventurous — like Kinshasa in the 70s.
How can you not love a jam called “Jive Turkey” from Haiti in the 70s?! It starts out sounding like some old school Haitian big band music you find while scanning the radio stations in Miami. Then, it gets all funky with psychedelic guitar & keyboard effects and groovy Creole singing.
Sublime Steel Drum Grooves
Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, a German Steel-Funk band that update the Steel Drum sound in the best way. Dope drum breaks, funky effects, and scratchy guitars compliment the steel pan groove. Here, they bring the “Tropical Heat” and their sublime sounds.
Their first full length album, the phenomenal 55, is out for 2016 on Big Crown Records. Keeping in the tradition of Steel Drum records, 55 is a journey through re-interpolations and covers with an updated approach, pushing Steel Pan music to uncharted territory. Flawlessly bringing previously untouched genres into the steel pan cannon ranging from Underground Hip Hop tunes to staple Funk tracks and some of all that falls in between. It’s awesome — get it on vinyl here.
Calypso Got Soul
Calypsoul 70 is another one of those timeless Tropical Music compilations from Strut Records. This is the kind of music that comes to mind when you imagine Tropical Music. The song, “Calypsoul,” by Clarence Curvan & His Mod Sounds sums up the groovy pleasures you’re sure to experience when you listen to this record.
Scratch Got Crabs
“Crab Yars” comes from the classic album, Return of the Super Ape, by Lee Perry & The Upsetters. A weird and dreamy Reggae instrumental gets you in the mood to smoke a spliff and relax in a hammock slung between two coconut palms on a remote Jamaican beach.
Jamaican Jazz Guitar
Jamaican guitar virtuoso, Ernest Ranglin, is one of the all time greats of Tropical Music — and he’s still going strong in his 80s! “Ska Rango” from his 2012 album, Avila, is his typical enjoyable groove that makes you feel like you’re laying on a Caribbean beach, half asleep, and then a gorgeous woman wakes you up with a glass of rum, and speaks to you in her sexy island accent.
We’ll end this tropical trip in Jamaica (cruising around the island with the gorgeous woman from the beach, of course).
Watch Ernest Ranglin and the Avila band doing their thing live…
Listen to & follow this playlist of Tropical Happiness…
Perfect, Pan Latin Music
Here’s how they describe themselves, “Buyepongo is an infectious sonic explosion of blaring horns and syncopated accordion licks. Tight booming bass lines transport you from the inner city, to a sunny island surrounded by a blue ocean. Your soul then succumbs to the slaps of the conga as you become hypnotized by the melodious harmonies being sung. You are now in a tropical haven. Get Ready To Dance!”
Sounds good to me! Learn more about them here.
Quantic’s Tropidélico Travels
British DJ, producer, and multi-instrumentalist — Will Holland (better known as Quantic) — makes Latin music as good as the classic Latin Funk and Cumbia of the 70s. He was based in Calí, Colombia for a few years and explored the myriad rhythms of Colombia. He assembled several tight bands of masterful musicians from the vast Colombian music scene.
The Quantic Soul Orchestra is a project that benefits from working with amazing musicians who can also deliver a phenomenal live performance. Over the years the The Quantic Soul Orchestra has involved a variety of members, collaborative partners and feature artists, including Will’s sisters (and not necessarily his Colombia collaborators). Their second album, Tropidélico, focused mostly on Latin flavored Funk, and a variety of tropical music styles. “Melodious Wayfarer” is a real cool, soulful groove based on Son Montuno.
The Haiti Direct collection, compiled by Hugo Mendez of Sofrito, is an epic, deep-dive double album. “Ambiance Cadence” is one of several funky, joyful cuts that carries you away to a Caribbean island…no matter from where you are listening to it.
Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra masterfully mixes Afrobeat and Brazilian music. They use the Nigerian music as a foundation to create killer grooves, uniquely Brazilian, yet genre-bending global hybrids that get you excited. “Oya! Oya!” is one of their rocking, funky party songs — joyful, percussive, and totally tropical.
Ghana’s Modern Funky Soul
Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band released their self-titled album on Strut and I picked it as one of the best records of 2015. Every song is stellar — magnificent musicianship, joyful, soulful old-school Hi Life music that gets you in a party mood (even if you can’t understand the lyrics).
“Mewo Akoma” melds Afrobeat, Hi Life, and funky soul. It’s a long tune that hits the perfect groove consistently, and gets their remarkable record going in a delightful direction from the start.
“Happiness” is not only a groovy African Funk tune from Vaudou Game…it’s the overarching theme of these two Spotify playlists. Tropical Music is the kind of music that just makes you feel good — even if it’s in a language you can’t understand or came out 30 years ago in some country you know nothing about. Listen to the whole Vadou Game album, Apaifo, from Hot Casa Records to get a feel for what I’m talking about.
Bombino plays a scorching guitar like nobody else. Hailing from Niger, he’s the latest tremendous Taureg guitarist to enjoy big (and well deserved) success on the world music circuit. “Timtar” is a rocking 2016 single that highlights Bombino’s singular skills on guitar, and features rollicking percussion and a catchy chorus. Also, watch Bombino Jam In The Van.
Afro Cuban Senegalese Son
Analog Africa‘s outstanding compilation, Senegal 70, explores the unlikely adoption of Cuban Salsa by Senegalese bands. They play Cuban rhythms, but sing in Wolof, a little broken Spanish, English & French. The combination totally works! Discover the story behind the phenomenon here.
The song here, “Ariyo,” is one of the more African sounding ones. It’s a long joyful jam with glorious guitar solos & soaring horns, as well as potent percussion, that makes you want to shake your booty. Listen to the entire record because every song is distinctive and gives you a feel for the diverse, rich music of Senegal. And, get the vinyl here.
Brilliantly Bizarre Mauritius Music
Strut Records 2016 compilation, Soul Sok Séga, turns you onto some of the most unusual music you’ll ever hear. These 1970s tunes from Mauritius are some of the weirdest, coolest music you can imagine. If you want to listen to something unique you’ve never heard before this is it.
Séga is the traditional music of Mauritius island and is known as the “blues” of the Indian Ocean. “Afro Mauricien” is a percussive call & response number with funky flutes, a dope bass line, and some crazy guitar work. Feast your ears on some tropical flavor. Free your mind & your ass will follow.
Sunny JuJu King
King Sunny Ade, the Nigerian Juju regent, is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music. I love that his music incorporates heavy use of traditional African instruments like the talking drum, as well as wild guitar effects & skillful studio tricks. “Ja Fun Mi” is a groovy instrumental with a hypnotic groove and lots of spacey special effects. It comes from Strut’s superlative series of compilations, Nigeria 70.
East African Ska
Rico Rodriguez, legendary Ska trombonist appears here with “Mozambique” — a jazzy Reggae groove — paying homage from one tropical music tradition to another.
I’m living in Thailand for awhile. It’s totally tropical. It’s great living here. But, there isn’t much for funky music. However, The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band is fascinating & unique! They mix traditional Thai instruments with a funky drummer, some Latin percussion, and dope bass lines to create hypnotic, distinctive, party music.
Watch The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band live in Bangkok…