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World Music Features

Charanga Cakewalk

By Tom Pryor
Published February 20, 2006

Charanga Cakewalk is a smooth cocktail of Tex-Mex border music, exotica, dub and chilled-out dance music that reflects Michael Ramos’ Texan heritage.

“I knew you were going to ask me that question,” groans Michael Ramos, when the ex-Rembrandt is queried about his involvement with the theme from Friends. “I was part of that record, which is a great record, but not a part of that song.

          “I was gladly not a part of that song,” he adds, laughing.

Ramos has a lot to laugh about these days, too. After years of paying his dues as a much-in-demand sideman who’s played with everyone from John Mellencamp and Patty Griffin to Paul Simon and the BoDeans (of whom he was briefly a member),  Ramos is finally releasing a project that’s all his own.

          “I make my living as a sideman,” he says, “but my dream has always been to record the music in my head, the music that moves me. I’m very proud to have worked with some great artists, but as I got older I wanted to make my own music. I saw how much fun these guys were having and I thought, I should be doing that, too.”

          The result is the Charanga Cakewalk project, a smooth cocktail of Tex-Mex border music, exotica, dub and chilled-out dance music that reflects Ramos’ Texan heritage.

“I grew up outside of Houston, in Angleton, Texas,” he explains, “My mom’s family came from Spain quite a ways back and has some Comanche in there, too; while my father’s family came from Mexico. So, as far as Texas goes, I guess I’m pretty indigenous.”

          Like most kids growing up in Texas in the ’60s, Ramos was far more interested in rock and roll than in Mexican music. “I love music, all music,” he says. “I started playing in rock bands because that’s just what you did. But my mom and dad and my grandparents all listened to hardcore Mexican radio stations. I was kind of ashamed of that, though, since, like most kids, I just wanted to fit in.

          “Back then Mexican radio wasn’t so segmented,” he continues, “so there was lots of accordion music, and I hated it then. Which is kind of ironic, since I’m now known as an ac