With its tuba-driven bass and funky brass trumpets and trombones, banda music lends itself to sampling as well as anything from George Clinton or James Brown's catalog, a point that L.A. hip-hop duo Akwid exploits to its fullest. Proyecto Akwid, their CD, starts inside the studio, or possibly a rehearsal space. While the musicians tune their instruments - you can hear them rehearsing - one of the MCs prepares both them and us, explaining that this will be "algo muy diferente" (something very different) before launching into song. (Although they could have easily used prerecorded beats, a quick check of the liner notes reveals that, yes, there's a seven-piece group backing the Gómez brothers.)

"No hay manera," their first single, has a weighty, near-epic feel to it, with its trombone crescendos and looping trumpet backing the sampled chorus from Juan Gabriel's "Te lo pido por favor." Bilingual banda singer Jenni Rivera (whose recent "Homenaje a las grandes" covered both Mexican pop and American R&B classics) guests on "Taquito de ojo" - the Spanish equivalent of "eye candy"; her voice lends a gritty, transcendent quality to the track which balances out the much more pedestrian lyrical content. In contrast, the gentler-sounding "Sin ti" finds the guys making amends in the wake of a breakup - a plea for forgiveness which, upon reflection, seems increasingly consistent with the overall tone of the album.

Proyecto Akwid
When I first heard "No hay manera" over the radio last summer, I dismissed it as nothing more than a cute gimmick: rap lyrics, en español, set to a banda beat. Within a week, novelty gave way to appreciation and sustained interest. Fresh and groundbreaking, yet rooted in tradition, this disc is one of the most inventive sonic combinations to make it on commercial radio in the last year. •

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