Los de Abajo


This, surely, is one of the more glorious moments in the history of clashes between global music styles.

There's a stirring, south-of-the-border brassy mariachi introduction, a grand announcement "Rude Boy - this is made in Mexico!", and then a sudden switch to a Ska beat as Los de Abajo launch into a Spanish-language, Latin-flavoured treatment of the old Fun Boy Three hit from 1982 - The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum), with one of the original Fun Boys, Neville Staples, joining in.

This was the Ska revival as seen from a recording studio in Mexico City and directed by the production team of Neil Sparkes and Count Dubulah, best known as those exponents of global dance music, Temple Of Sound. And it's just one of the wildly varied styles and fusions in the Los de Abajo repertoire.

This is the band's third international release (and their fourth album, if you add in the Latin Ska Force set that they produced independently to satisfy Mexico's still-growing Ska market, and which has sold some 20,000 copies through grassroots distribution, just in Mexico City alone). Their last international album was Cybertropic Chilango Power, the 2003 set that quite rightly won that year's BBC World Music Award for the Americas.

So what's different this time round? An enormous amount. The band have toured the world and have been absorbing new global influences while continuing to explore their Mexican roots. As founder-member and keyboard player Carlos Cuevas puts it "our music has changed through the years, and been enriched by more influences - both by the styles we heard outside the country, and our research into Mexican music and the ways of creating a contemporary fusion."

Anyone who has seen the band knows what an exhilarating and impressively varied outfit they've become. Most bands strive to repeat their studio sound on stage, but Los de Abajo are such great players that for them it's been quite the other way round.