(Photo: Roderick Angle)
David Byrne’s Rei Momo was less a proper album than a guided tour through musical genres which aren’t rock’n’roll. For many listeners, it was their first taste of Merengue and Salsa. Or Cuban Charanga in this case. Byrne would probably like you to know that Charanga is a style of Cuban dance music sometimes also known as Danzon, which draws on classic European influences, such as Spanish guitar, and African influences in percussion and rhythm. It is distinct from, but related to, other Latin music genres like Salsa or Ranchero. Learning about all the different variations in Latin music is a herculean task, not least because the Latin world is so wildly diverse. In recent years the influence of Latino-American culture has steadily flowed into the US mainstream, so that today we don’t need the teachings of a white dude from Baltimore to familiarize ourselves with at least the most basic and popular parts of it, but in 1989 America was a less diverse place and Byrne’s efforts went a long way to legitimize these ‘exotic’ musical styles for mainstream American consumption.