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Sample Track 1:
"Mexicanos" from Loteria De La Cumbia Lounge
Sample Track 2:
"Acebo" from Loteria De La Cumbia Lounge
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Loteria De La Cumbia Lounge
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Charanga Cakewalk, Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge (Triloka) View Additional Info

Charanga Cakewalk Electrifies Cumbia

The man behind Charanga Cakewalk—Austin’s emerging cumbia-tronic project—has fully embraced the diversity of his life experience. Michael Ramos’ background in rock, Latin, and electronic music all come into play on Charanga Cakewalk’s debut solo outing, Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge (Triloka Records). While most of his musical career has been dedicated to providing keyboard and accordion expertise to the likes of John Mellencamp, Patty Griffin, Paul Simon, the Bodeans, and the Rembrandts, Charanga Cakewalk allows Ramos’ unique cross-cultural experience to shine.

“As a kid growing up in a Texas small town, I’d hang out with my buddies in front of school,” Michael Ramos recalls. “We’d listen to Bad Company and talk about all the rock groups of the day. And my mom and aunt would drive up with Mexican music blaring out of the radio. I remember slinking down in the back seat. My mom would say, ‘You shouldn’t be ashamed.’ But try to tell a 13-year-old kid not to be embarrassed by his family. The fact that this crossed cultural boundaries made it that much more difficult.”

“But now I really feel bad for people who only experience one type of music,” says Ramos. “There’s so much out there. And that has always been something I have thrived on. As a kid, I might have felt a little strange. But now when I look back, I think, ‘What a great foundation.’ I pulled all those influences along, from classical piano training and the Latin music my grandparents played, to the Beatles, Rolling Stone, and Dave Clark Five records my dad would buy. It all came together as I got older.”

What was originally a studio project has become a touring act; with a national launch in 2005, opening for an extensive Patty Griffin tour.  Ramos has played regularly as part of Griffin’s band (he produced the title track for Griffin's Grammy-nominated 1000 Kisses), so it made sense to have Charanga Cakewalk open on the tour.

The name Charanga Cakewalk—also a song on the album—came from a sign in a church parking lot spotted by a friend of Ramos. The CD title, Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge, combines the name of a Mexican-style bingo with the name of Ramos’ recording studio, the Cumbia Lounge. “When I see people who have found true love, I think finding true love is like winning the lottery,” Ramos explains. “It happens, but it doesn’t happen to everyone every day.”

“I love the Mexican groove form cumbia and based a lot of the songs around the cumbia groove,” says Ramos. “So that’s what I named my studio. Not lounge in the sense of remix CDs or chill out music, but simply a place to hang out. Even on tour, that’s the name of my dressing room where I have my candles burning and my mobile studio. Cumbia Lounge is wherever I am making music.”

Ramos has taken his time with releasing his own record, partly because he has been so busy touring with Griffin and Mellencamp, but partly because he is a cautious musician. “I really hate it when I am in the car with someone and a song comes on the radio and they say ‘That’s the sound from the Yamaha Motif’ or ‘I have that sound in my keyboard too,’” Ramos says. “I like using real instruments, to make it as organic as I can. But sometimes you can’t do that, so I try to alter all the keyboard sounds and make them my own, instead of recording with whatever they give you. I try to make it where people cannot recognize where the sounds are coming from. Sometimes you don’t know whether it is a keyboard, a sample or the real deal.”

It took Ramos a long time to acknowledge that people—especially the big-name musicians with whom he worked—saw him as an accordion player. He kept doing it because the versatility of keyboards and accordion helped him get gigs. “One of my biggest complaints about the accordion is some people want me to play it all the time. If you put on blue sunglasses, you say that’s pretty neat, but after you have had them on for 30 minutes, you forget all about it; your eyes adjust to it. And it is the same with your ears. You have to use accordion sparingly for a good effect.” Which is just the approach Charanga Cakewalk uses.

“The world has had a lot of bad news in the last four years,” says Ramos. “At one point I felt we were all sort of depressed and bummed out about the state of things with our planet, so I just wanted to make music that makes people feel good. I wanted to keep it on an airy, light note. Some songs are serious, some are born from pain, and they all come from the heart. But I just wanted people to relate to it on an essential level.”

Additional Info
Charanga Cakewalk Electrifies Cumbia
Michael Ramos on the Songs on "Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge"

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