Every once in a while I enjoy reviewing something that is out of my comfort zone. Uma Galera is one of those bands. I selected their album for review based on the band photo (just look at them looking happy!) and the first fifteen seconds of “Wai Wai”.
Uma Galera plays ska and reggae heavily infused with funk. And that’s where I step out of my comfort zone. I have some ska in my collection, although it is hugely limited to two-tone really. The one exception being Jaya The Cat whose ska, reggae infused with punk is on heavy rotation during summer. Reggae and funk are completely absent in my collection. I am just telling you this to give you some background on where I am coming from with this review.
Back to that comfort zone and stepping out of it. I always learn something from it. Sometimes it really broadened my horizon, sometimes I just learn something is not that interesting for me. An example of the former is jazz, where I found some records that really touched me. An example of the latter is Nederhop, which did nothing for me (except annoy me at times). Uma Galera is firmly part of the first. I had a smile on my face almost the whole record during my first spins of the album. I had to get used to the slower parts, but they were so extremely relaxed it just made me happy. At this point in time I am not sure whether I should have a closer look at reggae first or that I should start by exploring funk (I lean towards reggae at the moment).
Perhaps it is because it is my only reference point, but I think (later) Jaya The Cat is a good comparison. I hear the ska and reggae strong in both. The result being a very relaxed form of ska. The big difference is the influence of punk versus funk. What a difference one letter can have! Where Jaya The Cat is more rough around the edges Uma Galera is much smoother and more focused on flow, it seems. Uma Galera has swag in abundance. They swing and at the same time spread a relaxed vibe that made me long for warmer days and feeling the sun on my face and a nice cool drink in hand.
During the first spins I enjoyed the faster songs more than the slower ones. When I slowed down a bit myself I learned to enjoy those slower tracks as well. The album is pretty much front loaded with the first four being my favorite tracks. Especially the already mentioned “Wai Wai” is a favorite. The song is the most ska song of the bunch, which explains it’s popularity a bit. It is incredibly catchy and it will stick in your mind for days after even the first listen. After 2:20 it slows down to reggae, but remains catchy. The album opener and the title track is another highlight. It starts as a slower ska track with loads of horns. After a short slowed down part the song picks up speed again which culminates in a strong ending. This song goes through different motions fluently, which speaks volumes for the professionalism of the musicians.
Two things really grabbed my attention, the first being the diversity of the singers on this record. Several take the mic and all have different influence on the record. My favorite must be the singer that takes the lead on “Te Voi Queranda”. She has some other parts on the album as well; I would have loved to hear more from here on the album. The other thing is the use of multiple languages, sometimes even in one song. Somehow this improves the flow of the album. It sounds very natural.
Is there a downside? There is, unfortunately. I like most of the album, but the last track “Tu Veneno” does nothing for me and ends the album on a down-note. Also the melody in “Te Voi Querendo” sounds a bit too plastic to my liking. The biggest downside perhaps, but that is something very personal: I’ve never felt so awkward as when I was dancing to the slower tunes. I had no clue whatsoever what to do, but I just had to move. Fortunately for me this was alone at home. Or, almost alone: my two cats were looking at me judgingly.
On their Soundcloud page the band calls itself world music. I think that is a relatively accurate description. They combine different influences and mix it together into one coherent whole. The band is based in Miami, a long way from my home in The Netherlands, which is a shame. I would have loved to hear them perform these songs live; I think this is one hell of a live band. Perhaps someday I will see them live. Until that day I’ll just press play again!
8.0 / 10
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