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Charanga Cakewalk

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Biography

Charanga Cakewalk is more or less Michael Ramos, a self-described Latino Chicano Mexican who is also -- as his music makes abundantly clear -- a citizen of the world. Followers of popular music will recognize Ramos for his work as a sideman and sometime rock & roller: before striking out on his own as the king of cumbia lounge -- a never-dull, feel-good musical mélange that includes artfully tweaked elements of tejano, flamenco folklorica, merengue, salsa, garage rock, ska, and reggaeton -- Ramos played multiple instruments in the studio and on-stage for John Mellencamp, Paul Simon, Patty Griffin, and others. He was also a sometime member of the frothy '90s bands the BoDeans and the Rembrandts. Throughout his tour of duty as an Austin-based rocker renowned for his skill at hitting the right note on everything from accordion to Hammond B-3, though, Ramos never managed to shake a fascination with the Latino music he listened to on the kitchen radio as a kid. Pérez Prado, Tito Puente, and Santana were among his heroes, and shades of them have emerged on both Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge, released in 2005, and the still more inventive Chicano Zen, released in 2006. Not all of Charanga Cakewalk's quirky, instantly recognizable output can be credited solely to writer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Ramos, though. On both discs, he has recruited well-known friends as collaborators. Chicano Zen, especially, is an all-star affair: Lila Downs, Ruben Ramos, Griffin, Martha González, and Davíd Garza guest. ~ Tammy La Gorce
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Albums

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