Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Mento Buru "East Bakersfield Christmas" EP

Digital (this EP can be streamed here, and is available on The Hub of Bakersfield website as a free download from November 25 through December 31, 2020--all made possible by a generous grant from their “Cash for the Arts” program)

The cover features an illustration of a star shining down on the silhouettes of three kids on banana seat bikes (who are meant to represent a version of the three kings traveling to honor Jesus after his birth).
"The Three Wise Bikers bringing gifts of Tamales, Salsa, and Mezcal." 
(Review by Steve Shafer)

The long-running Latin ska/reggae act Mento Buru--now in their 29th year--have released a really fun and wonderful six-song EP of popular Christmas songs and carols titled East Bakersfield Christmas. The title is a nod to this ethnically diverse Bakersfield, CA neighborhood that gave birth to the band (and is still where they're based), and the choice of tracks and the musical diversity they represent (Latin, country, soul, jazz, and rock--all given a ska or reggae interpretation) reflects all of the cross-cultural intersections and influences experienced by the people who are proud to call it home. East Bakersfield Christmas features English and Spanish versions of Augie Rios' fantastic 1958 cha-cha-cha song "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" (which is new to me), as well as a souped-up version of Jose Feliciano's perennial ear worm "Feliz Navidad." The centuries-old traditional English folk instrumental "Greensleeves" (the setting for the Xmas hymn "What Child Is This?") is skillfully performed in a vintage Jamaican ska-jazz style. Mento Buru transform "Jingle Bell Rock" into a great, muscular ska-billy cut, and their reggae rendition of "The Christmas Song" (popularized by Nat "King" Cole) is terrifically heartfelt and effective (and--trigger warning--likely to cause a lump in one's throat or bring a tear to one's eye). At the end of a tough, exhausting, and for some, devastating year, Mento Buru's East Bakersfield Christmas is sure to bring joy and hope into one's life during a season--and at a difficult point in time--when we really need it. (Thank you!)

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