Today I wish to present you a wonderful and very productive initiative which is largely unknown by most Timba and salsa lovers.
The artist I present today is La Habana Ensemble, formed by distinguished saxophone player and former member of Irakere, Cesar Lopez (often nicknamed “the Cuban Charlie Parker”) in 1997.
The amazing Irakere, led by Chucho Valdez, served as the inspiration and model for the creation of La Habana Ensemble, as it plays both jazz and Cuban music.
As mentioned before, the ensemble has been very productive, and has by now produced 8 albums with another one coming out soon.
The ensemble toured all of Cuba and also many other countries such as Venezuela, Japan, Peru, The USA, Barbados, Spain, Mexico and others.
The ensemble also won several awards in including best Cubadisco jazz album of 2006, special prize for distinguished achievement of Cubadisco in 2008, and also the best international music album of the same year.
Cesar also won a Grammy playing with Irakere before forming La Habana Ensemble.
The ensemble has also shared the stage with both jazz and Latin music starts such as Chucho Valdez, Pablo Milanes, Compay Segundo and Sting.
The song I present today is a finely made Timba from their 1st, 1997, album, “Mambomania”, inspired by and dedicated to the art of, Perez Prado.
In today’s post I wish to present you a new song by Calle Real, a unique and very interesting band from Sweden.
Calle Real was formed as a trio in 1999, playing traditional Cuban music, inspired by the success of the Buena Vista Social Club, which brought the founding members to take interest in Cuban music.
Later, during the early 2000’s, the band (which now had more members) traveled to Cuba, and studied Cuban music for several years.
They studies traditional Cuban music, but after a while fell in love with Timba, which at the time was very much in its “golden age”, which was still going on since the 1990’s.
The band was warmly received by the Cuban audience, so much that they were invited to play at the prestigious “festival internacional de musica Benny More”, an annual festival gathering the best Cuban musicians on one stage.
A few international artists also get invited, but must be substantially talented and unique to receive such an honor.
Calle Real apparently were, and succeeded in simply amazing the Cuban audience by their mastery of the quite complex and wonderful genre of modern popular Cuban music.
This concert was recorded on DVD, and released under a Swedish TV label in 2005.
The band released 2 albums since: “con fuerza” in 2006 and “me lo gane” in 2009.
This song, along with 3 others, are the first major release of the band for several years now, and will be included on the album “dime que” which is to be released later this year.
Today I wish to present an interesting song by Tirso Duarte, with references to both tradition and modern culture in Cuba, as perecieved by this musician.
In Cuban songs (with Timba being no exception) one can find plenty of references to Orishas and a specific form of syncretism found in Cuba called Santeria.
In Cuba there has been a good amount of mixing throughout the country’s history, genetic and cultural.
This was especially apparent in the sphere of religion.
Interestingly, despite what many might think of socialist regimes, in Cuba the government has been very lenient about religious practices, and mostly the Cuban people enjoy the freedom of belief, and practice their religious customs and traditions.
Not many people know, but Cuba has a Buddhist & Hinduist community of ~15000 people, and many more practice yoga, meditation and other activities which take root in the spiritual culture of the far east.
It seems that Tirso Duarte has taken some interest in Hinduism, as this song is about the supreme god of that religion, Krishna, or as pronounced in Spanish, Crisna.
Throughout the composition one can find the singer addressing Crisna, talking about some aspects of Hindu philosophy, and some mantras \ prayers to the god.
Hidden deeper still, one can also find a few references to the Afro-Cuban traditions as well.
I guess that in Cuba it can all exist together just fine… or at least in the mind of one wonderful Cuban musician.