But on 'El Hijo de Obatala' Santero goes beyond all the hype, on the one hand returning reggaeton to its musical
Santero puts the spirituality back into reggaeton, all the while never losing the edge that makes it reggaeton in the first place. Thus a path that started with his birthplace in
Fortunately Santero always had music in his life, his father being the leader of a regionally popular cumbia and salsa band in
El Hijo de Obatala (Son of Obatala) is the culmination of that spiritual infusion into Santero’s music, and the lyrics are full of it. From the opening song ‘Abre Camino’ (‘Open a Path’) to the final tribute to the warrior-saint ‘Ochosi’, Santero sings of inner city frustrations- “los que caen son los innocentes… ando buscando la justicia” (“the innocent are the ones who fall… I go looking for justice”), but without being defeated by it. His religion is his savior, just as it was for his hero Bob Marley. In ‘Baba Ade’ the divine Obatala himself “siempre me perdone sin reproche… alivia mi pena… accompaneme siempre” (“always pardons me without reproach… relieving my pain… always accompanying me”). He evens deals with environmental issues in ‘Agua
If you think you’ll need to brush up on your high-school Spanish to enjoy Santero, don’t worry- the music will carry you through. The surprising thing is its diversity, hardly a song repeating another’s licks in a genre I’d long given up as a one-off. The cumbia and salsa background serve Santero well here, and he dips liberally into both to keep the beat hopping. That means congas, brass, and flute, the works. The Marley influence is still there, in both words and music, lilting and optimistic. But maybe what’s most surprising is another voice from the grave, being properly coaxed and channeled- Marvin Gaye, complete with female back-up in English, to help re-align the focus. These days, after all, what better describes our dilemmas better than a phrase from another chaotic era- “What’s goin’ on?” Give DJ Santero’s ‘El Hijo de Obatala’ a listen- you just might be pleasantly surprised. I was.