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ALBUM: "BLUE LION RE-MINAGINED" LESTER REY

Chicago boricua Lester Rey has been hitting the road, most recently taking a trip out to Minnesota for a gig. Lucky for us those of us in his hometown, we do not have to travel far to catch Rey and his band, who perform regularly in different neighborhoods, street fests and venues. Among those is none other than AMFM’s new gallery in Pilsen, where Lester Rey recently performed and filmed a music video for “Never Been Alone.” This is the second track remixed on his newest EP, Blue Lion Reimagined, which is a collection of seven songs, each “reimagined” by a different artist.

On Blue Lion Reimagined, some of Rey’s favorite and catchy songs are put into the caring hands of DJs like AfroQbano and El Bles, who allow them to breathe out their boogaloo feel, but make them crisper and more fit for club dancing. For example, Rey’s cover of the now-classic song “I Like It Like That” is remixed by Los Marafakas and repackaged here as a something delightfully unrecognizable from the original, taking listeners somewhere at the intersection of reggaeton, dubstep and ambient. As always, Lester Rey and co. show us a way to utilize what can be seen as older genres of music and imagine them into something original and relevant.

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For those familiar with Lester Rey, it might come as little surprise that shoutouts to la isla and people of the Puerto Rican diaspora are central to this album, but perhaps less obvious is the political meanings beneath such positive lyrics. For instance, on the first song, “Ponce Blues,” Lester Rey is speaking the isla and its peoples, singing “Quiero cantarle a Ponce” (I want to sing to Ponce), “I want to see Puerto Rico libre” (I want to see Puerto Rico free). Rey performed the original version of this song in Washington D.C. last October in support of Oscar Rivera Lopez--a political prisoner and member of the group FALN, which advocated for a socialist and independent Puerto Rico--who had his sentenced commuted by Barack Obama just a couple of days before the release of Blue Lion Reimagined. It was appropriate, perhaps, that the reimagining of this song would make it more upbeat and celebratory-sounding than the slower paced original. Lester Rey was among the Puerto Ricans and other Latinxs and allies who were elated that their voices had finally been heard after Rivera was incarcerated for over 35 years.

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But as our resistance must always continue, on the day of Blue Lion Reimagined’s release online, Rey was present and performed at an anti-Trump protest in Chicago that took place on his inauguration day on January 20. It served as an example of the importance and strength of art and artists to challenge and hold a mirror to oppression and silencing. Especially with this set of ‘reimagined’ songs, Lester Rey seems to be imagining not only a new future for his soulful boogaloo music Chicago urban context, but also a new future for Latinx music more broadly and the role of people who make it. As a manifestation of a beautiful diaspora, that traveling of people and culture into new spaces, this is the kind of music that seeks to transcend boundaries of genre and help us dance our way onward.

Take a listen to Blue Lion Re-Imagined below.

 

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ALBUM ART BY: BRIAN HERRERA
CONTRIBUTING WRITER: ILENE PALACIOS
P HOTO CREDITS:
SEBASTIAN HILDAGO
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