Pachangón’s Resonance: From Kitchen Parties to Chart-Topping Beats With Tropical Punk, Cumbia, Ska, and Calypso

Thank goodness the neighbours spent the summer out of town! When the after-hours crowd that had just left one of Montreal DJ/producer “MTL Pachangón” club nights moved the party to his combined kitchen and living room, the walls shook with joyous singalongs, the celebration until sunrise by the sounds of beatmaking, rapping and various noises made with household utensils.

Now, almost seven years later, comes proof it was all worth it. Oonga  & Chellz – Dame Espacio feat. Ultra K, the debut single from Oonga’s MTL Sauce Piquante project, reconstitutes those late-night bursts of creativity into a spicy mix of tropical punk, cumbia, ska, calypso, dancefloor grooves and just about anything else that can be caught and thrown in a pot.

“Dame Espacio” means “give me space,” and the jubilant track is both a boisterous demand for elbow room and a nostalgic celebration of the geographic “spaces” its featured artists left to make their home in Montreal. Over the insistent beats Oonga lays down, Salvadoran MC Chellz, Mexican psychedelic rocker Ultra K and backup vocalist KC paint a picture of “un lugar que is sin igual” (“a place that is without equal”), full of “cerros altos” (“high hills”) “vastos lagos” (“vast lakes”) and “padres con muy pocos pagoshaciendo milagros” (“parents with very little pay, making miracles”). “Fais moi de la place/ Dame espacio” goes the bridge refrain, underlining the title theme in two languages. All the while, Javier Maldonado’s skanking guitar and Ons Barnat’s dubbed-out bass throb with their own muscular enthusiasm and overseen by mixer Ivan Duran.

Check it out on YouTube here:

 While this particular track is credited to “Oonga and Chellz,” its larger mission is to introduce MTL Sauce Piquante, a collaborative project and new label made up of “award-winning artists, award-nominated artists, participation-trophy winners, fry cooks, bartenders, upcoming talent, well-established talent, and talent that is still not sure if they have any talent or not.” That’s an admirably self-effacing way to describe some of the finest musicians from Montreal’s vibrant global roots, jazz and Latin scenes. The fruits of their labors arrive in spring 2024, with the release of the Oonga-led initiative’s first full-length album, Cracher le feu (aka Spitting Fire, aka Fuego en la Garganta). And don’t worry we’ll be getting a bunch of leftovers: While the fundamentals of jams like “Dame Espacio feat. Ultra K” were hashed out in those long-ago after-hours sessions by a cadre of guitarists, horn players, keyboardists, bassists, rappers, singers and poets, the music was then “debated, torn apart and put back together again” over the span of months and even years (and a lot of bottles of El Yucateco; yes, working from home has its perks).

Listen on Spotify here:

“It’s the new roaring ’20s, and we need our own demented cabaret music,” Oonga’s crew says. “As things fall apart and life gets heavier, sometimes you really need the music to pick you up!”

Maybe we should all just pretend we live next door and come in through the back door.