In the early 90’s, David Byrne was at SOB’s to see the legendary Mexican group Café Tacuba. The opener was an unknown NYC band that went by King Changó. David came back from the show raving about an incredible, vivacious singer who climbed all over the speakers and leapt around the stage. He thought it was one of the best performances he’d ever seen and that Luaka Bop should sign them. We did. King Changó was the first Latin rock band signed to an American label, and their singer, Andrés ‘Blanquito Man’ Blanco, was indeed a force of nature. We released two King Changó albums, featuring members who went on to start bands such as the Dap Kings and Antibalas. Blanquito Man unfortunately passed away in 2017 after a long battle with liver cancer.
Luaka Bop is releasing these albums on vinyl for the first time as a tribute to him, and in gratitude of King Changó’s die-hard fans.
This is what we had to say about King Changó 20 years ago, when these records were first released:
You say you like it RAW? You think you know what the New World Order is all about? Well you’ll wanna grab a seat ringside when New York’s Latin alternative ambassadors, King Changó, spice up the rock ‘n’ wrestling connection with The Return of El Santo! Led by irrepressible frontman Andrés Blanco, King Changó step into the ring in tribute to Mexico’s wrestling superstar, the masked warrior known as El Santo, with their first album in three years—and a sound so energetic and fresh we don’t need no stinkin’ chihuahua dog to sell it.
From their birth on New York City’s mean streets, King Changó quickly established themselves at the top of Latin rock’s international heap with their 1996 Luaka Bop debut, King Changó. Their mix of hard-charging ska, Latin rhythm, and roots reggae converted virgin audiences into true believers from Venezuela to Mexico, Spain, and Japan; “Melting Pot” the single and video off of their first album saw regular rotation on MTV Latino and M2.
Now, with the Return of El Santo, King Changó—named for the Afro-Cuban god of war—pay tribute to another Latin bruiser with a new musical vision. Like radioactive embryos in the petri dish of New York, King Changó have gone Godzilla size. Leaner and meaner, streetwise and funky, encompassing the full plate of pop culture from trip-hop dubadelica (“Lil Sister”) to sexy love ballads (“Sin Ti”) to full-bore punk attacks (“Full Time Business”), Latin drum ‘n’ bass (“Tu Veras”), and straight up Venezuelan roots and culture on “Brujeria.” El Santo manages to make the free-for-all of “Melting Pot” seem tame.
In the years since King Changó’s eponymous debut, the world of Latin alternative music has exploded. The so-called Latin Boom in mainstream U.S. pop has nothing on a worldwide revolution that’s seen whole genres, from Latin electronica to bilingual hip-hop, spring up from Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and beyond. King Chango proved themselves to be in the vanguard of a post modern, mix-n-match aesthetic– a multicultural, coed band of Venezuelans, Asians, Dominicans, Nuyoricans, and more made something new out of traditional music from mariachi to mambo, dub to cumbia. El Santo features like-minded guests including Ozomatli’s horn section on “Full Time Business” and Nuyorican rapper Babee Power (of MTV’s Lyricist’s Lounge fame).