If you’ve been following the blog, you are surely familiar with many of my favorite songs and artists; I never cover or post music which I do not enjoy listening to myself (doing so would be dishonest…) .
So, after some pondering, I decided making a youtube playlist of many of my favorite Son, Songo and Timba compositions, for everybody to enjoy.
There are about 140 of them at the moment, but the list keeps expanding over time.
So, if you like to get acquainted with some good Cuban music, are a DJ looking for nice stuff to play, or are just doing something and wish to have some nice music in the background, check out my favorites playlist at youtube.com …
Today we go a few decades back in time, to the 1950’s.
During the 1st half of the XXth century, several Cuban rhythms became well known and loved worldwide.
Among these were the Son, since the 1930’s, the Mambo since the 1940’s, and a few years later, from the early 1950’s, the Cha Cha, with the associated dance, the Cha Cha Cha.
This genre of music was created from the Danzon, the 1st national dance of Cuba, by composer, songwriter and violinist, Erique Jorrin, then a member of Orquesta America.
Thanks to being rooted in the highly melodic Danzon, Cha Cha music reached an almost perfect balance of Rhythm & Melody, being both Rhythmically sophisticated and Melodically rich and pleasant at the same time.
Orquesta America is (after many years of inaction, it was “revived” by some of its former members in the 1990s) a typical Charanga band of its time, and was formed in 1942.
It played Danzon, Son, Charanga, Bolero and Mambo.
During the late 1940’s, Jorrin started composing Danzon where the musician, and not only the vocalists, sing short refrains in unison during some parts of the song.
Jorrin also often ended the songs with a Rumba part, and changed the notes of some of the percussion, creating the famous “Cha Cha Cha” sound which can be heard in each bar of the music; This added some rhythmic complexity compared to the Danzon.
The music and the associated dance were big hits, being played on the radio and LP records, with concerts and dance performances being broadcast on TV.
The band split into 2 roughly equal parts after a conflict which happened during a concert tour in Mexico, resulting in Orquesta America, which stayed in Mexico (and later moved to California), and Orquesta America del 55′, which returned to Havana in early 1955.
After many years of inactivity, resulting from the passing of the “cha cha cha fad” in the 1960’s, the Californian band was restored in the 1990’s, recording once again.
The song I present you today, “Los Marcianos”, demonstrates the timid, (some even say, childish), easygoing and lighthearted manner of Cha Cha music;
The main characters of the song are the jolly martians, who came to earth in a flying saucer, doing what they love most – dancing Cha Cha Cha !
So, is there life on mars?
Seems so, and it’s a very fun life, too 🙂
Today I present you a Cuban-Peruvian band based at Lima, Peru, who have just released their 2nd album.
Orquesta Mayimbe was conceived during January 2010 by Cuban pianist Barbaro Fines Forte, residing at Lima.
Barbaro had worked with some timba bands in Cuba, including La Charanga Forever, Isaac Delgado, Alain Daniel and Paulito FG, and also Los Conquistadores De La Salsa in Peru.
With Lima being a local Timba powerhouse, Barbarito did not have much trouble forming his band from Cuban musician living at the city and some Peruvian musicians as well.
The band made its 1st appearance late May 2010, becoming an immediate hit in Peru, and a few months later world wide, as samples reached DJs all over the world.
Their 1st album, “De La Habana A Peru” (released in 2011), is a treasure trove of wonderful compositions, which quickly became a best seller among salsa fans, with many of its songs filling the dance floors in clubs and parties around the globe. Their 2012 European and 2013 US tours were sold quickly, bringing the joy of a live Timba show to tens of thousands of fans on 2 continents…
The next tour, BTW, is planned for spring 2014!
In late 2012 an unfortunate event took place – the band lost one of its most recognizable symbols, singer Rafael Labarrera (yes, son of Los Van Van conguero Manuel “Manolo” Labarrera) …
After the initial conflict, Rafael formed his own band with some other ex-Mayimbe members who left together with him, using the name “Rafael Labarrera y Su Orquesta Mayimbe” , causing confusion among fans and promoters.
Barbarito even had to do some explanation when Rafael was arrested in early 2013 for traveling a false passport.
During late 2012 – early 2013 Mayimbe lost many members:
Bongocero \ Campanero Jose Luis Hernandes Rivas “el Agatur”, Drummer Alvaro Soto Guzman, Timbalero Jose Luis Sanchez, Bassist Luis Camilo Gomez Perez, Horn players Walther Mamani, Christian Zapata Julca, Luis Cuenca Izarnotegui, and Edwin Sanchez Reyes.
If this was not enough, Angelito Ramirez left as well, and thus, Mayimbe had to replace most of their vocalists, which can clearly be heard on their present release, “Los Mensajeros de Dios”, their 2nd album.
For me this CD is a huge disappointment, as one can really feel the unfavorable changes in personnel, musicians and singers alike (I definitely miss Angelito, Rafa, Marcelo, Miguel and Alain…) .
Out of 10 tracks on the album, only 4 are worth mentioning;
1 – Como Duele, a very nice Son flavoured composition
2 – Changany, a song first recorded before the split, with great Afro references, drive and tempo changes
3 – La bendicion, a fast paced hard hitter about the Orishas
and finally, the song I present you tonight,
4 – El Amigo, or how I personally call it, “8 minutes and 16 seconds of fun!”
The song is a masterpiece, made in the original spirit of Mayimbe.
It is a true test of vitality and stamina for the dancers, lasting a whole whooping 8 minutes and 16 seconds, with absolutely a 100% of them done the way Timba should be.
Unlike other songs from the album (such as “la chica chocolate” or “no me lastimes”) which though shorter (but still quite long, over 6 minutes), and just drag on in a boring, monotonic waste of your time and energy, this one has a wonderful course of development throughout the whole composition, plenty of interesting elements and rhythmic surprises, and lots of drive, while not being too exhausting.
The rest is just disappointing, whether being plain boring and monotonous, loosing the Clave based groove and structure, replacing the Afro Cuban rhythmical elements with commercialized western ones (from balads, pop etc.), thus completely severing the connection with the Afro-Latin-Caribbean heritage of salsa music…
The higher they climb the harder they fall;
While their 1st album was full of hits, with most compositions well made, interesting and fresh, and a magnificent lineup of talented musicians, the current album is a mere shadow of the bands’ former glory, consisting mostly of mediocre, boring or simply strange (maybe failed experiments?) compositions, with a few gems hidden in between.
Anyway, this is one of those gems mentioned above, so do check it out 🙂
Today I’m glad to introduce a nice Cuban band from Belgium named Contrabando.
This is a very nice 12 member Salsa band from Belgium, led by pianist Andres Fernandez Ordonez, and mostly made of Cuban musicians living there, but includes some Belgians as well.
The band has 2 CDs, the 2007 “En Mi Habana” and the 2012 release, “Abriendo Caminos”, both of which are quite interesting.
But in this post I introduce a newly released, energy packed single called “Fe Con Bendiciones”.