Conjunto Papa Upa returns with “Todo Parao” (“Total Shutdown”), another boundary pushing tropical smasher. Bringing you the ultimate (humourous) hymn to the pandemic over an exquisite blend of highly danceable Caribbean rhythms (zouk, cadence, kompás, guaracha) and classic synths. Backed by a deep sea dub on the flip, complete with resplendent cowbell(!), timbales and Wurlitzer solos. Another stepping stone that showcases yet another angle of the unique and radical production style of Alex Figueira. Drop this 45 at your next virtual party and watch everybody leave their computers in a desperate search of a dancing partner.
Conjunto Papa Upa is the Afro Caribbean centered solo project of Figueira, backed live bysome of the best musicians from Amsterdam’s Latin and free jazz scenes. Their debut LP was recently released on legendary American indie label Names You Can Trust. Figueira is also known for his percussive work on tropical psych power trio Fumaça Preta or his regular live incursions with Amsterdam’s turkish psych folk powerhouse, Altin Gun.
Having spent the whole night working on the melodic structure of the song, Figueira took a break to take advantage of the different time zones and check on his dad in Venezuela, and ask how the pandemic was unfolding there. His answer: “Todo Parao” (“Total Shutdown”). The same two words he had used multiple times before, this time pronounced in a hilarious Rum-infused way, giving Alex an unexpected flush of inspiration in the form of an instant infectious chorus. He excused himself and immediately got locked back in the studio. The result is this incredibly catchy tune, displaying the optimistic approach of a boyfriend to the chaos, uncertainty and worrying of his girlfriend about the pandemic, presenting her with his own lascivious lockdown plan for the two, declaring at a certain moment: “while everyone is lamenting, you and I are going to enjoy”.
In the musical side, rhythms from Haiti, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico and Cuba are unscrupulously mixed with the most diverse and strikking elements: strident cowbells that evoke the toughest salsa of 70's New York, harmonized guitars evidencing the inconfesable influence of 80’s heavy metal, a delicate Wurlitzer piano reminiscent of Black America’s greatest Soul ballads, Casio keyboards rescued from a child’s toy cabinet and a whole plethora of half-broken classic Synths, to create an equally irresistible and unclassifiable hybrid.
On the flip side, Part 2 opens with a prominent dose of the lead guitar that appeared briefly on the A side, working as a preamble to an instrumentalist frenzy that is not concerned about displaying technique. Its mere intention is to tell you the rest of the story without using words. A few bars into the song, the first gear shifts with a monumental solo given by the least probable of all “soloist” instruments: the cowbell (!). After it, a crispy Timbal crashes the party, making a statement out of its only appearance in the entire recording. Finally, the longed-for turn of the melodious Wurlitzer, who left everybody craving for more on the other side of the record, giving the modest keyboard skills of Figueira an imposing pentatonic virtue.