Fania X FADER: Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon, “La Murga (MNDR Wholestep RMX)”

January 06, 2011

When MNDR’s Amanda Warner lived in Chicago, its culture implanted on her like a brain chip -- she’s perpetually twitting/blogging about the city and its music, in a tone so understated and matter-of-fact it makes her obsession seem even more breathless. Accordingly, she’s sprung off the speedy, gurgling techno that soundtracks Chi-city footwork -- juke and its wily cousins -- so, with the help of MNDR cohort Peter Wade, she juiced up Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon’s carnival classic “La Murga” with a typically hypercolor take suited for super-fast dance parties. It approaches 3ball BPMs, but like Warner’s twits, juke’s synth kicks are weirdly subdued for a music so spazzy, and “La Murga (Wholestep RMX)” feels like driving salsa music through a video-game brick wall. Focused. “La Murga (Wholestep RMX)” is part of The FADER’s remix project with legendary Latin label Fania, wherein we enlist some of our favorite musicians to reinterpret classics from their celebrated catalog. Stream the song below and read an interview with MNDR after the jump.

Why did you choose “La Murga” to cover?
“La Murga” stood out because of it's instantly recognizable, grimy sounding trombone line. We felt the line would lend itself nicely to an uptempo juke inspired remix.

Do you have any personal connection to the song or to Willie Colon/Hector Lavoe?
I want to say yes, but I have to say that Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe are new names to me. However, their music is so ingrained in culture that it was instantaneously recognizable, so I guess it is just in everyone's subsconcious.

What about salsa?
There are so many salsa songs that you hear everywhere because they are classics, especially in New York. As a record digger, this is a new genre for me to explore.

The song is so wild–how did you get from the original to your blurpy remix?
We like to approach remixes by extracting an interesting motif and using that as the basis of the remix. We also like to reduce that hook down to basic elements and build it into different melody lines. Since we're both into minimal dance music we wanted to base it on those elements. There are some footwork crews in NYC where Fania is from, so it seemed like an amazing opportunity to make a remix that could connect the roots of New York salsa with uptown NYC footwork.

Did you automatically hear it in your mind when you first listened to the original “La Murga” or what?
We didn't hear the end result but we heard the process and approach. “La Murga”stood out so much because of the trombone hook, it is so grimy it put a spell on us. The trombone easily lent itself for a 180bpm juke remix that could ride in half time. Plus I would like to take a bath in how amazing that trombone is.

This is a “what's your process” question. What do you mean when you call it a “whole-step remix”?
This remix style is not a traditional juke style remix because it also has elements from step, IDM, and house music. So we thought calling it the whole step remix would sort of describe the footwork remix style that we're exploring. It also references dance music that can hang in double or half time. Like my brain on a half-caf latte... it wants both at the same time.

What was behind the decision not to keep any of the vocals?
We wanted to find the most hooky and sonically memorable line of the song. The trombone was staring at us like a show down in the wild wild midwest. It screamed at us to repeat it over and over again. We had to do it.

You went bonkers on the brass section though. Amanda, you have a little morsel of yr vocals in there. What are you saying?

Is “oh-uh” the signature MNDR vocal tag, like a DJ drop?
It is something that my friends start to tease me about while we are hanging out because they have heard it in different MNDR songs. So now it is the MNDR drop... for now. Uh-oh??

“La Murga” is a celebration of Panamanian carnival mini-orchestras and the music they play. When was the last time you were at a carnival?
Pheww... when have I not been at a carnival. The last carnival my body attended was at Chicago's Lumpen Fest. There was the amazing party in the basement of Co-Prosperity space that was redecorated to look like a carnival inside the mind Terry Gilliam after he had peaked on mushrooms for the 13th time in one night. There were kissing booths made of melted cheese and pie walks where the pies were made out of shoes. I am not sure if I have truly recovered from that night. I also believe I got a mild case of black lung from the mold in that basement.

Did you get down with the lyrics at all in this song? What kind of carnival would your remix soundtrack?
You have a way to walk that drives me crazy, when you dance the Murga/ Girl, you look good.
That is a lifestyle choice I endorse. I think our remix could be at any carnival with shoe pies or real pies. This remix is for everyone.

Did you see El Cantante, the film about Hector Lavoe starring Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez?
I am watching it right now...seriously. And strangely enough, Peter worked as an engineer on the soundtrack. Is this serendipity... or a black hole tearing through space????

Do you think Mark Anthony is secretly a godlike babe?
Look, his secret is safe with me.

Fania X FADER: Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon, “La Murga (MNDR Wholestep RMX)”