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Music Review: Putumayo Presents – Euro Groove

Euro Groove is a collection of laid-back tunes from across the continent. As Putumayo fans have come to expect, this compilation brings together an eclectic variety of artists and songs that still fit together in a common theme. The theme this time is, obviously, “groove.”

And groove it does. It’s sassy. It’s funky. And it’s easy to focus on the music and vocals on their own, without distraction from the lyrics, since you probably won’t understand most of them.

The CD opens with “Destins et Désirs” ("Destinies and Desires"), a mellow song that sets the pace at a relaxed tempo. The song is performed by Toufic Farroukh, and features Jeanne Added on vocals.

The song is part lounge, part jazz, and part Middle Eastern, with elements of trip hop. It’s quite multifarious, drawing on Farroukh’s Lebanese background as well as his formal musical training in France, not to mention everything he’s apparently picked up along the way.

Many listeners will recognize Chumbawumba for their 1997 hit “Tubthumping.” Though they quickly came and went from the American pop spotlight, Chumbawumba has been around for more than 25 years.

The band makes an appearance on Euro Groove with “Jacob’s Ladder,” a bouncy Celtic tune with a message of political discontentment. The song references a World War II incident in which Winston Churchill chose to protect the Norwegian royal family rather than send a rescue mission for 1500 working-class sailors, who drowned as a result of the decision.

The song’s lyrics are full of classic anti-establishment language, complete with allusions to jumping on command: “You jump when you’re told to, through the open door/ And the king of Norway, he’s the man you all died for.”

Fans of “Tubthumping” may be surprised to learn that Chumbawumba has its roots in the anarchist punk rock movements of 1980s England. Many of their seemingly-chipper tunes contain political messages and harsh criticism of the powers that be. It makes me want to go back and listen to “Tubthumping” with a more critical ear. I always thought it was just a song about getting drunk and having fun.

My favorite song on Euro Groove is “Cette Fille,” a punchy song by French artist Martial. The guitar work is beautiful, and Martial’s vocal skills (he’s also in a French rap group) transcend the language barrier. I have no idea what he’s saying. But it sounds good. There is a lot of Celtic flair in this song, with a fiddle interlude that sounds like an Irish dance tune.

Euro Groove is like the melting pot that didn’t melt: Influences from across Europe’s cultural landscape compliment each other without merging together into something that all sounds the same. There is an upbeat feel to the songs that will inspire listeners to get up and dance. Good luck figuring out which steps correspond to Celtic-meets-Arabic-meets-Gypsy-jazz, though. It might be time to make up your own amalgamation, in the spirit of this hip and eclectic collection.

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  • Charlie

    Your excellent review reminds me that I have to pick this CD up, as I have a few tracks from it already and love the Farroukh track “Destins et Desirs.” Great, extremely relaxing stuff. Jazzamor’s contributing to Euro Groove is excellent as well. Putumayo picks some great artists from around the world. I’ll have to pay attention to future (and past) compilations they put out from now on.

  • Busymom

    Here are the lyrics:
    J’ai tout fait, envoyé des fleurs, des télégrammes… Écris des lettres de coeur, à l’encre des mes larmes… Quelques mots posés, placés sur du papier, Quelques mots pour dire, que je ne cesse de l’aimer… Je ferai tout pour qu’elle devienne ma reine, Le roi, le valet, le fou, la carte qui lui convienne. Même s’il le faut, contre les vents et marées, Je serai le dernier debout, l’histoire de toute une armée… J’ai pensé, repensé, doucement l’approcher… Avoir du courage et vaincre ma timidité ! Faire le premier pas physique, vers Elle Et ne pas me couper les doigts, me laisser pousser des ailes. Il ya des jours, comme ça, où l’on se sent plus fort, Prêt à faire des efforts, prêt à combattre au corps à corps… Pourtant je reste seul, avec mes lignes et doucement j’attends… J’attends son signe. Refrain (2x) Mais cette fille ne me regarde jamais. Oh cette fille ne me regarde jamais. Ne me regarde jamais… Comme un con, je la croise.. tous les matins Et sans réaction, je passe, je ne lui dis rien. Ça fait comme un choc, en moi, qui crée une peur, Comme un vampire qui reçoit.. un pieu en plein milieu du coeur. Je ne pense pas que les gens me comprennent, Non, l’amour ce n’est pas ça en plus la douleur est mienne. Alors, je continue la tête baissée, avec le coeur blessé Mais toujours envahi de rêves… Et pourquoi c’est comme ça, ne me l’demandez pas.

    And the English translation:

    I did everything, sent flowers, telegrams … Write letters of heart, from the ink of my tears … Posed briefly, placed on paper, few words to say, that I keep the love … I will do everything so that she becomes my queen, I’ll be the king, the knave, the fool, whatever card fits. Whatever it takes, against winds and tides (against all odds), I’ll be the last one standing, the story of an army … I thought, rethought, to approach slowly/gently… to have courage and overcome my shyness! Make the first move toward her, and do not cut off my fingers, let me grow wings. There are days like this, where one feels stronger, ready to make efforts, ready for hand to hand combat… Yet I remain alone with my lines and I wait quietly … I expect her signal. Chorus (2x) But this girl never looks at me. Oh this girl never looks at me. Never looks at me … Like a fool, I pass by her every morning .. And without reaction I go, I don’t say anything to her. It makes like a shock, in me, that creates a fear. Like a vampire who gets… a stake right in the middle of the heart. I do not think people understand me, No, love is not that, what’s more the pain is mine. So, I continue, head down, with wounded heart, but always filled/invaded with dreams … And why it’s like that, don’t ask me.