As previously announced, The FADER is embarking on a yearlong remix project with the legendary Latin label Fania, wherein we enlist some of our favorite musicians to reinterpret classics from their celebrated catalog. Today, we're thrilled to premiere the first in the series, for which Monterrey-based DJ/producer Toy Selectah has envisioned Willie Colón's haunting salsa classic "Aguanile" as a portal to the future of the sacred 6/8 rhythm. Voiced by hallowed singer Hector Lavoe, the song feels like a stepladder from the ancient rhythmic past to the very immediate present, manifested in the new Mexican style called tribal guarachero. Read our interview with Toy about his interpretation of this song in the following pages, and read more about him in our tribal guarachero story in our latest issue. You can buy this remix off Fania's site, purchase it on vinyl EP in the coming months, or grab the whole 12-song series on vinyl and CD at the end of the year.
Stream: Willie Colón, "Aguanile (Toy Selectah RMX)"
Why did you choose "Aguanile"?
It was kind of simple! I treated this project with a lot of respect and I enjoyed the whole process of choosing, of digging into the original sessions. So before I chose, I made it a simple kinda project—digger-lover-fan! Willie Colón is for sure the most funky and cool and duro! from FANIA's story! Taking Willie Colón got me two targets in one shot. I got Hector Lavoe, too, if not the best then probably the most important vocalist in the Fania story—The Original Jíbaro Gangsta, Rock Star, Boricua de Pura Cepa, tremendous sonero voice! Then it was probably the energy, the power of everything in "Aguanile" that got me magnetized to the idea of taking that 6/8 pattern all the way to a dope disco santero cosmic guarachero dubwise!
What was your initial idea with the remix—how did it develop?
Being respectful to the original, to keep the magic of that particular moment in life that they recorded the song 30-something years ago. I almost cried listening to Hector Lavoe's vocal acapella for the first time! I enjoyed aspects and words, whispers, instructions, jokes and things that are hidden or underneath the other instruments in the original mix.
So mixing all that feeling and the happiness of that moment, I got the idea to keep the 6/8 groove in the whole song. Then I chose some loops from the intro, took some bass parts, mixed the horn section as the main element for the track and tried to build the riddim pattern in a punchy Afro-Latin groove. Interesting to mention is that all the sounds used for the remix, aside from one kick and one snare, are from the original sessions! I really like to take remix assignments of these outrageous moments, stories... songs like "Aguanile" from Willie Colón sung by Hector Lavoe for the original urban Latino label Fania from New York. That means true school!
"Aguanile" is like a prayer and the lyrics, invoking Santeria and Jesus, are deep. How did the meaning of the song influence how you created the remix?
Deep lyrics, deep moment of faith, not just for the Santeria meanings but probably for the things that Hector been living in those days, in that year! That's heavy and real. In a way it reminds me the era of "brush the dirt off your shoulders"!
Do you see a connection between old salsa rhythms and the new strains of cumbia beats? Were you trying to say anything specific with how you remixed it?
Need to be clear on this—I've been doing music for 15 years, i came from a hip-hop background in the late '90s with Control Machete, and I've never been stuck on anything. I've been experimenting with cumbia for years, different ways, different tempos and style. This remix is not anything about cumbia but just the African origins of ritmos and drum patterns. The 6/8 key is for me a magical mantra to connect with roots!
It's very weird, I've been connecting dots for some time now—6/8 time is powerful and it's just starting to be used in new school ways. All the way down South in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia Ecuador, Perú, Colombia, Venezuela, all Central America and Mexico—folk music has been in 6/8 key for years and years. Then lately this 3BALL and tribal guarachero craziness is all about 6/8 grooves. To be really crazy, what if 6/8-driven music is the key to the cosmos music—the Mayan 2012 Mantra!