SummaryRay Lugo's mind is very fertile, and he's been rather prolific over the last decade, putting out a variety of groovy sounds ranging from organic to electronic, afrobeat to soul, Latin to Brazilian and many different sorts of mashup/fusions in between. But just because he is creatively fecund doesn't mean the quality suffers – each album is hand-crafted and Ray takes his time to shape and mold it to just the right proportions.
Ray is also strongly motivated, with impeccable taste and secure in following his own muse wherever it will lead. He recently told me he's never been one to make music that is trendy, happening or much talked about – he's never even cared for any of that. He maintains that he's moved by what a tune makes him feel inside in his heart, and if it has a solid underlying story then he becomes drawn to it.
The other great thing about Ray is he has always surrounded himself with fabulously talented players and singers, some who have been with him for years. This shows in the high quality of both his recorded and his live output.
So when Ray told me he had some new music he was working on, I didn't know what to expect, but I knew it was going to be sabroso, whatever the ingredients. Turned out it was his second Latin soul record with the Boogaloo Destroyers, and destroy the dance floor is just what they will do when you put this record on the Hi-Fi. The title of the album translates loosely as How groovy! and it's a very apt one. The Boogaloo Destroyers' sound is inspired by the warmth, diversity, and youthful spirit of classic New York Latin Boogaloo of the 1960s, yet at the same time, as composer and lead vocalist, Ray feels he is bringing some of his afrobeat sensibilities and vocal personality to the proceedings, to make it fresh for today's audiences. He also told me he feels the Boogaloo Destroyers serve the dual purpose of emphasizing his pride in being Latino as well as helping to build a musical bridge for people from around to world to come together and learn a little bit about each other, and with this sophomore release, he's gonna do just that. When I asked him to talk about the songs, he offered some entertaining insights:
Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout The Boogaloo: I was thinking of a couple going uptown for a night of dancing.
Rico Boogaloo: a tour song about missing your lady and fun times when re-uniting.
¡Que Chevere! (My Baby's Got Latin Soul): talking about non-Latin gals that still got that soul!
Ven Al Jala Jala: ¡puro vacilón! (a pure ass-shaking time)!
C'mon Everybody: I don't now why but KC And The Sunshine band came to mind when thinking about this one. A simple call to everyone to come and dance the sweet boogaloo.
El Ritmo De Nueva York: I wanted to feature some real descarga tunes as we lacked those on the first album. Also wanted to show NYC pride.
La Tumba De Fu Manchu: had a strange dream with a kung fu savant coming out of cave. Also was intrigued with mixing a boogaloo them on top of a cumbia beat = cumbialoo!
Hong Kong Shin-A-Ling: I lived in Spanish Harlem for a couple of years in my 20s above a Chinese chicken wing spot and my girl used to work at Tower Records on 4th Street. She would take home videos for us to watch after hours and always stopped at the Chinese spot and picked up some chicken wings to accompany our movie watching.
Terremoto: another descarga track bringing about an earthquake as a result.
Batongo: I love Watusi Boogaloo by Willie Rosario so wanted to have a similar tune but with a character of its own, putting my stamp on it. On a trip I took to Cuba in 1999 I encountered a fellow the neighbors called 'Batongo' and he used to love to eat kimbombo (okra) with rice, so he was the inspiration for this.
I want to leave you, the listener, with this thought Ray shared with me recently: In a hyper difficult music environment Ray has had the great fortune to bring so many of his concepts to life, and he feels this new boogaloo album has come at the perfect time in his career. Now is a time in his life when he's never been more comfortable making music, and he feels blessed to be finding himself constantly amazed by people's kind consideration of his work. After they hear this one, I can assure you Ray, the deal will be sealed!
DJ Bongohead, New York City, 2013