No matter how many years I spend digging for new sounds, I can still get hit sideways with something unexpected. Lots of countries on this side of the Atlantic have rich musical traditions associated with Carnaval, and I recently discovered that Venezuela is no exception. La Sardina de Naiguatá, led by trumpeter Ricardo Diaz, hail from the Caribbean coastal town of Naiguatá and play a modified modern version of the festival music called parranda, using both brass and electrified instruments (originally parranda groups featured just hand percussion and a cuatro). The band's name comes from a Carnaval ceremony called the Burial of the Sardine, or Entierro de la Sardina—it's an Ash Wednesday procession that includes cross-dressing and other subversions of sexual roles as well as the mocking of civil and church authorities. On June 19 Smithsonian/Folkways will release ¡Parranda!, a terrific album that features La Sardina ripping through various high-energy Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Aside from all the percussion, the band's sound is dominated by twin trombones and a trumpet, piano parts reminiscent of son montuno, and effusive group vocals.
Today's 12 O'Clock Track is one of the album's best cuts—it's an example of a song form called "fulia," where solo singers alternate with choral exhortations. La Sardina will perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music on July 11.