¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?,
Whitest Taino Alive
Stereotipico, Dominican Republic
by Carlos Reyes
Trying to locate the zeitgeist becomes a priority to the tastemaker. While it’s true the Internet brought fragmentation to the way we listen to music –and that the zeitgeist can be found scattered at a dozen places at once –there’s still a place for those of us romantic enough to theorize over the notion of the it occupying a physical space. Not to call ourselves oracles of any kind, but we were very attentive to the blossoming of the new wave of Chilean pop before anyone dared to call Chile a pop paradise. In the last year we’ve responded ecstatically to emerging talents from the Caribbean, particularly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Perhaps we’re cheating when bundling both nations together (a la FIFA 2002 worldcup), but both scenes are sharing a discourse of carnal and digital burgeonings that is beautiful to witness.
Dominican newcomers Whitest Taino Alive join Füete Billēte and Buscabulla as one of the most memorable emerging acts of the last few years. Led by the equally prolific and abrasive producer Cohoba, and branding on the idea of providing the audience with something they call Choperia Fina (rocking beats while wearing leather), WTA afford to sound truly colossal on their debut album. Featuring a grand-sound design and an ambitious composition, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? is an album that sounds nothing short from pristine (and puts the latest Calle 13 to an even bigger shame). We wouldn’t expect anything less from Cohoba, whose stellar EP Chroamatism earlier this year has profiled him as the Dominican Republic’s most distinguished music maker since Rita Indiana. For a producer with a fondness for rapture and visceral banging, he is faced with the task of negotiating his beats for the vocal dissertation of WTA (conformed by Cohoba, Blon Jovi & Dominicanye West). The results are valiantly tackled and arresting for the most part.
WTA pop references a wide number of topics that go from Sosa, Heisenberg and Lara, to celebrating Selena’s butt as a cultural monument. While the abrasiveness of the lyrics makes it seem like they’re name-dropping indiscriminately, they’re actually using pop culture as a tool/hook to welcome non-Dominicanos to their idiosyncrasy. Take for example the album’s concept. The title ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? winks at Molotov’s ¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?, which itself mocks on Mana’s ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños? This chain of smartass referencing would’ve been tiresome by the third time, if it wasn’t for the album cover (showing a thong sliding hasta abajo) validating WTA’s intentions of providing a lubricant to the Dominican way upfront. Which begs the question on how WTA, or Füete Billēte for the matter, would sound if reggaeton had not become the phenomenon that it still is. We might be talking about hip hop music here, but the reggaeton influence can be felt from a far distance. It’s in this way that WTA’s debut feels personally accomplished, but is also a cooperative from the pool of influences that brought it into being.
From the first immersive brashes of intro “Chillin en Jaragua” to the syncopated horns of the gigantic “En Canoa Pal Seibo,” the first half of ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? privileges the spellbinding over the immediate. Promotional cuts “Burlao” and “Mi Bandera” are two ideal tracks to taste the WTA experience. The former surfs slowly above synth crescendos, while the latter confronts the soundscape in a massive and unapologetic way. The second half of the album lacks fury on the chorus department, but somehow manages to sound even more melodic than the first half. The outstanding “La Resaca” is particularly exciting in how it tailors and manipulates beats to simulate the feeling of feeling hangover –with a narcotized voice of reason serving as a chorus. Lyrically, the album delivers plenty of hilarious one-liners, but frequently struggles to accomplish roundness in the storytelling. The narrative is still wonderfully uncompromised in both, their outburst and restrained lines of attack. And that’s perhaps WTA’s biggest attraction, its ability to position itself as understated text and then become a major threat to the dancefloor by the very next track.