Mango Ghost and Sabu
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Mango Ghost and Sabu

Bluefields, Atlántico Sur, Nicaragua | INDIE

Bluefields, Atlántico Sur, Nicaragua | INDIE
Band World Latin


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"Bluefields Reggae Stars Make a Comeback"

BLUEFIELDS – At the age of 70, legendary Bluefields reggae singer José Sinclair is look- ing to make a comeback. His songs get little play on the airwaves these days, but many in this rustic port town still remember Sinclair by his colorful nick- name, which he earned by firing potshots at anyone who tried to steal mangos from his family’s farm.

There were no bullets fired, Sinclair says reassuringly, just cashews, rotten plantains and anything else he could find to launch out of an old pellet gun. “Just to scare ‘em a bit,” he said. The warning shots worked, and with no one seeing that it was Sinclair taking aim under the cover of darkness, word soon spread of a mystery spirit hidden within the mango groves. Hence, he later became known as “Mango Ghost.”

Sinclair, who still uses his phantom nick- name when playing on stage, has written some of the area’s most recognizable music. But after four decades of playing, Mango Ghost has no recordings of his own. The type of reggae he helped popularize, known as mento, has been mostly replaced by dub and dancehall.

Having helped put Bluefields reggae on the map, Sinclair joins a growing list of aging musicians along the Atlantic Coast whose music is slowly fading away. Their plight has inspired two young New Yorkers to help preserve the area’s traditions, one artist at time.

“What happened to all your songs?” Alexander Scott, visiting from Manhattan, asks Sinclair. “Your music is really hard to find.” Sinclair nods, saying that a producer from Argentina disappeared after recording sever- al of his popular hits in the 1980s. “Him tell me that in six months time I get our record,” Sinclair said. “Sixteen years later, one morning I put the radio on, and I hear my song.”

The Lost Recordings
Very few of the legendary artists in Bluefields have recorded their music, leaving Scott and Edwin Reed-Sanchez, a recent
graduate from New York University, to alter their plans for what has now become the Bluefields Sound System. The two had origi- nally set out to make a documentary about Nicaragua’s surprisingly deep reggae roots.

But shortly after arriving on the hard-to- reach coast, Scott and Reed-Sanchez decided to start the area’s only recording studio. They have since completed two music videos and are planning to record a compilation album, including songs by Sinclair and other old- time reggae stars.
They also plan to start construction on a culture house, which will act as a living museum to sell local music and host live concerts. “The project just kept steamrolling,” says Reed-Sanchez, who hatched the idea from his apartment in Brooklyn.

The two New Yorkers make for an unusu- al pair walking through Bluefields, a former smuggling town that is pocketed by tin shacks and rough neighborhoods. Scott is white and originally from Detroit, and Reed- Sanchez is of Caribbean and Mexican decent. Both have dreadlocks and grand plans of winning international acclaim for the Nicaraguan artists.

The two young producers sometimes shoot graduation videos to make ends meet and they cook food for various fundraisers. But the New York boys, says local radio DJ Greg Gallup, are the best hope for keeping Bluefields’ reggae traditions alive. “We are in danger of loosing our culture,” Gallup said.
Reggae Finds a Home Cut off from the rest of Nicaragua by miles of swamp and forest, the isolated Atlantic Coast took a different musical path than the Spanish-influenced heartland.

The Caribbean trade routes brought calypso and reggae from Jamaica, while country music made its way down from New Orleans. The unusual mix left a broad array of influences to sample from, helping to cre- ate what many feel is a unique Bluefields’ sound. Reggae here gained its greatest fame in the 1980s, when groups like Soul Vibrations, backed by the Sandinista government, toured the United States and other countries with songs about poverty and the hardships of civil war. But after the 1990 electoral defeat of the Sandinistas, the funding and interest dried up, and most local musicians splintered off in different directions.

Scott says that they have been tracking down old artists, much like Ray Cooder did with the Buena Vista Social Club, a docu- mentary about Cuba’s aging salsa performers. Only the Bluefields music scene is grittier and full of reggae stars who don’t always get along, Scott said. Still to this day, Sinclair walks around with a noticeable limp – the result of being stabbed by his band mate, “Zabu.” “He owed me money,” Zabu says about his motive for knifing his friend in the leg. Zabu tried to run from the police, but “didn’t get far.”
Zabu, who was a leading reggae star in the 1980s, spent several years in jail, putting him in a slump that he says he now is finally recovering from.

“I’m 15 years behind,” he said. “Now I reach the top.”
At 65, Zabu is one of the forgotten leg- ends that Reed-Sanchez and Scott hope to record this year. His live shows are some- thing that even Mick Jagger might have trouble keeping up with, part of a “catty- man” style that keeps Zabu moving, screeching and shaking. “I show entertainment,” he says. “I’m the boss of my style, cattyman.”

New Talent Meets Old

The Bluefields Sound System also plans to record newer artists, like Kali-Boom, a 29- year-old singer who is one of the few in the group to boast a full set of teeth and a perfect white smile. “He brushes his teeth like 12 times a day,” Scott says. Reed-Sanchez said Kali-Boom is expected to be their biggest recording success. “You see him and you just know,” he said. Kali-Boom says his influences lean more to dancehall than the roots-based reggae, but he respects the older musicians who have paved his way.
“There is a lot of history here,” he said. “I get inspired by it, plenty.”

Some of the older legends are not about to let the younger ones take their places just yet. Sinclair says he still has plenty of per- formances left in him, though he com- plains that it has been tough to play because his regular band mates are too busy or sick to get together. Still, he adds, it wouldn’t take long to be ready for a live recording. “We don’t need to practice that much,” he says with a laugh. Scott, who turned 27 in December, leans over and tells him not to worry. “We’re going to get you a record,” he said
- Nica Times

"Honores a Mango Ghost"

Entró a las páginas de la historia cultural de la Costa Caribe dedicando esfuerzo al rescate y promoción del tradicional Palo de Mayo.

Compositor del famoso tema “Fire in Bluefields”, Mango Ghost, nombre artístico del músico oriundo de Bluefields, José Sinclair, recibirá el domingo 28 de mayo un homenaje en reconocimiento a su aporte a la música caribeña nicaragüense. Parte de los honores que la mañana de ese domingo se rendirán a esta figura musical, que ya suma 72 años de edad, y quien atraviesa una dura situación de salud, será la entrega de un disco con la grabación del tema “Una canción para José Sinclair”, original de la agrupación caribeña Osberto Jerez y Los Gregory’s.

Dicha canción fue interpretada en vivo en el concierto celebrado en la capital días atrás, para recaudar fondos en ayuda a Mango Ghost ahora que atraviesa momentos difíciles.

Según Osberto Jerez, Mango Ghost ha sido “un ejemplo para todos los cantantes costeños, pues casi todos los talentos actuales aprendieron de su experiencia”.

Y es que algunas de sus composiciones han sido grabadas por reconocidos músicos, entre ellos Anthony Matthews, La Nueva Compañía y Macolla, como es el caso de la canción “Fire in Bluefields”, inspirada en el incendio que arrasó con esa localidad a inicios de los años 70. Vale mencionar que Mango Ghost fue el vocalista elegido por el poeta Beltrán Bustamante para cantar su poema “Bahía de Bluefields”; además, es el único sobreviviente de los famosos Bárbaros del Ritmo, primer grupo que grabó un LP de Palo de Mayo.

La entrega del disco en homenaje a Mango Ghost se realizará en Bluefields el domingo 28 de septiembre a las 9 de la mañana en su casa de habitación. El homenaje es posible gracias al apoyo de Roberto Sánchez Ramírez. - El Nuevo Diario Nicaragua


Los Barbaros del Ritmo (Mango Ghost) - Fire in Bluefields (single 45) - Indica - ca 1969 - Nicaragua

Los Barbaros del Ritmo (Mango Ghost) - Palo de Mayo - LPA-10. ca 1971 - Nicaragua

Sabu - Live Your Life - 1984 - Nicaragua

Zinica (Sabu) - Zinica - ENIGRAC - 1983 - Nicaragua

Bluefields School of Music (Compilation) - Bluefields Sound System 2010

Mango Ghost - What a Hard Time - Bluefields Sound System - Release Date: Oct 2011 - Nicaragua

Sabu - Sabu - Bluefields Sound System - Release Date Oct 2011 - Nicaragua




Mango Ghost learned the traditional Bluefields music as a child on a donkey drawn carriage from a man known as "Tonto". They rode around doing small errands, and making up songs of what they saw on the streets.

As an adult Mango Ghost and his pioneering band "Los Barbaros del Ritmo" introduced the sounds of Maypole, the Caribbean carnival music, to audiences around Nicaragua. The Barbaros toured nightclubs throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean playing maypole classics such as Zion-O and Tulululu but it wasn't until he wrote "Fire in Bluefields", that brought Mango real notoriety.

In the late 70's Mango went on to own a nightclub in Managua, named after Los Barabaros The place was a thriving meeting spot, where go-go dancers performed with the band playing the latest tunes from the Caribbean, and the United States.

Despite the success, political upheaval and the revolutionary war of 1979 saw the destruction of Mango's night club, and the virtual end of Mango's career.

In 2005 Mango lost his leg to illness, but he persevered and in 2010 began production on his new album: "What a Hard Time".


Sabu is a living legend, and according to folklore was born a monkey, and sold his soul to the devil to receive the powers to inject audiences with his music. He spent the 60’s and 70’s circling the nightclubs of Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and Nicaragua, entertaining audiences with his patented Cat-Man Style.

He was appointed to the Ministry of Culture by the Sandinistas, and represented Nicaragua, in Cuban, and Venezuelan Music Festivals. In 1984 Sabu recorded "Live Your Life", a Caribbean Country, Mento, and Calypso album backed by the group Cawibe.

NEW ALBUMS: Mango Ghost's "What a Hard Time" and Sabu's "Sabu" will be released October 2011.