23.02.18 : Rumba y Candela 8 – a festival of Cuban dancing and live music !

Good day dear readers, listeners and blog followers!

After a break of 1 week I henceforth return, to tell you a little about the Rumba y Candela festival at the beautiful city of Strasbourg, France.

The festival was very much fun, with great parties ’till the mornings’ light, lots of amazing and super friendly dancers from all over the world, 2 days of interesting workshops of authentic Cuban dances…

But for me the best part of the festival was that 3 of its 4 nights featured live music!
The first one was by a very nice Latin Jazz band from Cuba called the Harold Lopez-Nussa Trio, which played quite a few interesting compositions, for example, a jazzy cover of the Irakere classic:

But the main dishes kept coming on Friday and Sunday, with concerts by the Soneros all stars (featuring Pepito Gomez from Pupy y LQSS) and Orquesta Reve !!!

Yes, you read it correctly – 1 festival with no less than 3 concerts, 2 of them being by primera linea Timba bands… and the Soneros even made a promo recording shortly before the festival…

Their concert was wonderful – with vocals covered by Pascualito, Roberto and Pepito, the soneros performed many a great composition (including the marvelous Dicen Que Dicen, from Pupys’ repertoire), and truly lived up to their name of both “soneros” and “all stars”.

Of this concert, my favorite composition was the Son & Changui infused Timba masterpiece called “Dime Nague Que Bola”, which was as much pleasure for the ears and for the feet…

As for the Reve concert… it really blew me off my feet!
I have seen the living school of Cuban music on stage at least 3 times before, and have seen over 2 dozen other concerts over the years, but this one was one of the best I had yet witnessed.
The musicians were at their finest, playing, singing, improvising and just having a great time, and the audience was just ecstatic…
The concert was a perfect mix of their newest stuff, such as no vengas llorando and gente chevere, new stuff like esa soy yo, yuya and cachita, and classics such as 1999, se sigue comentando and mi salsa tiene sandunga… a perfect mix!

I’ll leave you with my favorite from the newer musical numbers, with one of the best voices in contemporary Cuban music, Susel la China… ¡Disfruten!

09.02.18 : Guararey de Pastora… from Changui classic to world fame !

Good day dear readers, listeners and blog followers!

Today we shall look into a nice little composition called “Guararey de Pastora”, also well known simply as “Guarare”.

So, what does it mean?

In Cuba Guarare means to have an informal, secretive, relationship with someone, mostly outside of your “official” one, or at least wanting to have one with somebody specific.
Outside Cuba it can also mean “to have a beef with \ to be annoyed by somebody”.

This song, with its typical “doble jugada”, is a classic Changui composition, common to the musical groups of Guantanamo and other parts of Oriente in Cuba.

A typical traditional interpretation of the song would sound something like this:

The song was picked up by Los Van Vans’ Juan Formell during the early 1970s, when the group was touring Cuba, and performed in Guantanamo.
Formell once told in an interview that a band which was them on stage one day with Van Van played this song.
Formell liked it, and later on recreated it from memory, recording a Songo version on his 1974 album.

Despide the american blockade of Cuba at its peak during those years, the record somehow made it to the USA, and less than 2 years later, New York salsa musician Ray Barreto released a version of his own on his album “barreto”, released in 1975.
This version is the one most fans of Latin music outside Cuba are familiar with…

So, here you go… an interesting story about how a classic of an old genre gains world fame!

02.02.18 : Robert Armas y Los Conquistadores de la Salsa – A Mi Me Gusta el Son

Good day dear blog followers, readers and listeners.

Do you like Son?
If you do, and even if you still don’t know you do, you shall definitely enjoy todays composition by Robert Armas y Los Conquistadores de la Salsa.

Son is the “father” of most contemporary Cuban music, especially the genres that form “salsa”, and of course also Songo & Timba, the genres of Cuban music you’ll hear at your favorite dance floors most of the time.

In the last decade or so, for the enjoyment of aficionados all over the globe, Son has been making a comeback, both in the repertoires of contemporary Songo \ Timba creating ensembles, and in the form of ensembles playing Son and other kinds of traditional Cuban music gaining world wide popularity.

So, today we have a fine example of a beautiful mix of Son and Timba.

¡Disfruta la Musica Cubana!

26.01.18 : Orquesta La Farandula de Cuba – Ven A Mi

Good day dear blog readers, followers and listeners.

Today we shall be enjoying a composition by a little known, yet quite talented, Cuban group from Mexico – Orquesta La Farandula de Cuba.

This group came to be during the mid 1990s in Cuba, and by 1997 released it first, and thus far, only album (and that is quite a shame…), called Como Jugando Asi.
Since then the orchestra moved to Mexico and later on to the USA, when they keep performing ’till this day, in San Diego, California.

The composition, as all of the other ones on this album, has the typical wonderful feel of “la epoca del oro”, and is timba at its finest.


19.01.18 : Plenealo – Normal y Natural

Good day dear readers, listeners and blog followers!

In today’s blog we shall be enjoying a decent interpretation for a wonderful 1994 Los Van Van composition, performed by Puertorican group Plenealo.

The song is a part of Van Van’s 1994 “Lo Ultimo en Vivo”, one of their first albums to be directly recorded in digital format, containing many great hits such as “que sorpresa”, “mandalo y ven”, “que tiene van van” and today’s track.

Plenealo is a Puertorican group specializing and promoting Plena and other styles of traditional Puertorican music, and its influence on salsa.
Up to now the group released 6 albums, with the current composition coming from their latest albums, called “distinto y diferente”.

So, here it is, ¡disfruten!

12.01.18 : Andy Gola y Cole Cole – Toma lo Tuyo, Dame lo Mio

Good day dear blog followers, readers and listeners!

Today we shall be enjoying a nice 7 minute long (!) Timba composition from “la epoca del oro”, the 1990s, when Timba was being created by literally everybody in Cuba…

Todays groovy composition is by Andy Gola y Cole Cole, from their 1996 album “live in Havana”.
The band started in 1990 as a general “Latin music” band playing everything from merengue to Guaguanco, and even some non Latin music.

But as the “Timba craze” hit Habana, Andy and co. of 14 talents got on the band wagon, and since then released 4 albums (live in Habana, en Colombia, a bailar.com and the recent Traigo lo que Te gusta), and performed all over the world, in countries such as Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador, Brasil, Canada and Italy, to name a few.

The composition for today is from their 1st album, and is quite smooth and groovy.


05.01.18 : First post of 2018 – the best Timba song of 2017 !

Good day and happy new year to all readers, listeners, blog followers y todos los mantes de la musica Cubana!

2018 has already started, but when making my initial “to do list” of Cuban music for the upcoming weeks, I remembered that there was one amazing Timba composition that came out in 2017, but I did not cover.

Well, if you have been following the charts, you might have guessed that it is a specific composition by Pupy y Los Que Son Son

Pasandola Bien is a perfect Timba composition, if you ask me, of the type that only occasionally comes along a takes the dance floors and music charts as if by storm.
Its tempo is just right, has the well defined and pronounced structure, an ideal balance between its rhythmic and melodic elements, great vocals, clave changes, solos, mambos and other influences of various Cuban genres.

The result is authentic yet modern, and a tremendous hit among Casineros everywhere.

So, here it is…
¡Difruta la musica Cubana, y pasala bien!

29.12.17 : New Los Van Van Album – “Legado” review !

Good day and happy new year to all blog followers, readers listeners…
¡y todos los amantes de la musica Cubana!
For today something nice was planned, but then the world received a new years’ gift of sorts, just before 2017 ends and 2018 arrives… a new album by Los Van Van named Legado!

I do not now any “bad” Los Van Van albums… but is this album truly the gift we have all been waiting for?
Maybe, yes and no.
While the musicians are definitely talented, the execution brilliant, some songs are truly wonderful, and the homage to papa Formell is beautiful, I have some mixed feelings about this album… at certain points I feel as though the current team has somewhat entered to deep into a certain groove they have established… some of the songs, while not being bad by any means are just… too standard… sound too much like each other or like some other songs of their from recent years.
Also, it seems as though “all is well” but… nothing is really happening… nothing distinctive, unusual, clever, interesting… sort of a flat line.

So here is my review of the album, song by song.
Do remember that this is my opinion on the matter, and all are free to disagree 🙂

So, without further ado…

As it usually goes, the opening song introduces the listener to the style of the album, and often is more of a descarga type composition, with some improvisation.
This is such a song, but as mentioned before, this is one of the “distinct in nothing” songs, that are kind of nice, but don’t stand out in any specific way.

A very nice, jolly, composition, full of energy and an all around positive atmosphere.
Although it definitely looses to a song with a similar name released by the band of a former member of Los Van Van, it still has a good tempo and rhythm, and in my opinion could be a great option for the DJ to play during the first hour of any good salsa party.

Mandy Canteros’ vocals are wonderful, and by its middle, the song really kicks into the right gear and has some nice solos… but on the other hand, the beginning is a bit strange (including some weird shouting), and the ending is really eccentric, with some strange rhythmic parts that have little to do with the rest of the composition in particular or with Cuban music in general.
Also, take note of the witty lyrics.

Vanessa is not Yeni… well, nobody except Yeni is Yeni, and there’s nothing to do ’bout it 😉
Yeni has departed from Van Van, and that is quite a blow… and very few songs can reach up to one of the ultimate romantic compositions of Contemporary Cuban music, sung by Yeni – Despues de Todo.
Still, in this romantic, melodic yet still rhythmic enough song, one of 3 such compositions in this album, Vanessa does her best to step into those huge shoes, and is actually quite successful in her endeavor.
I really feel “in my element” dancing to such songs, and consider the songs tempo to be near perfect.

Yet another of those song who are decent all around, but don’t have anything unique to them, that would make them memorable.
Also, yet another somewhat weird first part for this song… a recurring theme for the album?
On the bright side, the violins are quite prominent and melodic, Roberton sounds great and is at times nicely accompanied by Vanessa, and at times the vocal parts even remind a true Van Van classic from back in the day

06 – AL PASO
This song has a few nice shout-outs to hits from previous years.
It can also boast a nice “drive” and groove, but IMHO it kind of lacks a cuerpo part, and is somewhat repetitive… over the top repetitive, if you ask me.

Yet another one of this discs romantic numbers.
Personally I love such songs, although they are, as a rule of thumb, simpler in nature, as the main emphasis is rather melodic and lyrical, and not rhythmic, although when dealing with Los Van Van and the other handful of bands of this caliber, there is never a lack of well performed rhythmic elements.
I also think that Mandy, who can fill any slot with ease, is really great as the Romantic type of vocalist, with wonderful vocals that are just right, not too dramatic or exaggerated.

And here is the 3rd romantic composition of the albums, and I believe that it is right after the previous one for a reason;
It might be symbolic, with songs #07 and #08 complementing each other, Te Extrano being the “yin” for Que Pena, which is the “yang”, with talented female and male lead vocalists, respectively.
And Vanessa sure delivers the goods as good as Mandy does, with the two having each their own distinct style of singing and improvising.
Of the albums three romantic \ lyrical composition, this is my favorite.

Although being somewhat too fast for my taste, in my opinion this is the best song of the whole albums, with a wonderful groove, great vocals, interactive violins & flutes, great drumming by ‘el hijo de el’… this amazing composition does a true homage to papa Formell, and is more or less a throwback to the 1970’s, the great days of experimentation, Songo and revolutionization of modern Cuban music.
I won’t even try counting the number of times I listened to this song on repeat 🙂
Take note of the wonderful electronic keyboard and electric guitar part at the last minute of the song!

A good, interesting song, with a fine structure, bridges, vocals, solos and other interesting elements… but unlike some of the other songs in the albums, it is disappointingly short!
Cloaking at little over 4 minutes, it feel as though the song ends at the point when it kind of starts kicking into high gear, and that’s a shame!
Would have been glad if it would go on for another 2 minutes, with a proper peak and culmination…

The name of this song says it all!
Definitely made for the dance floor (and for the savvy listener) with a historical perspective of the band, its leader and their musical style.
Perfect song tempo (even with a subtle change as a part of the bridge between the cuerpo and montuno parts), with lots going on, great vocals, violins, solo parts, horn lines and groove.
Oh, and unlike the previous song (and again, maybe they are in the album at that order for a reason, this time, for contrast), this song is of a length which properly allows us to completely immerse ourselves and enjoy the song. 

A rather good composition, as a musical composition, although, for my taste, kind of too “over the top” for the dance floor, being more of a rapid fire jam session that a dance hit…

Not much new here, as the song has already been released as a promo about a year ago, with a very nice clip being released about 6 months ago.
For some reason the end part, which has some interesting lyrics and a nice finishing jam, has been altered, and IMHO, not for the best…

Yet again, a musical composition not very much oriented towards the dance floor, but rather a wonderful, touching eulogy to the maestro himself…

So, all in all, it’s quite a solid album, and I wish that more bands out there would sound at their finest like Los Van Van sounds on their “bad” days and “less impressive” compositions.
When you can, get your hands on the album with no second thoughts.
Still, unlike most of their work, I find ~ half of this album not to be memorable, and although I would dance on most of the songs, I would not select all of them when I am the DJ.
And this stands in contrast to most of Los Van Vans albums, including those from the last decade or so, which have more or less the same “cast” of musicians.
I can say that I would play any song from “Arrasando”, “La Maquinaria” and “La Fantasia” (except the title track, which is not a timba) even with my eyes closed, something that I cannot say for this album.

Well, this is my impression, and I wish you many hours of listening and dancing and…

¡sigue disfrutando la musica Cubana!

22.12.17 : Happy birthday Reve & La Ruñidera

Good day dear friends, blog followers, readers and listeners.

2017 draws to a close, so it is the time for some nice educational content 🙂
For today I originally wanted to focus one one thing, but after digging into it I stumbled remembered a request for a specific subject from a friend, and decided that this would be a good opportunity to combine the two.

So, first thing first – tomorrow, Decembre 23rd, is the birthday of one of the most important and influential personas in contemporary Cuban music – Elio Reve Matos!
(By the way, a common mistake is to date his birthday to July 23rd of the same year; this is wrong – the confusion comes from the fact that soon after Elio’s birth, his family moved to a different city in Guantanamo, and thus his father registered his birth at the town hall of their new place of residence after the move, which happened to be later that year) .

So, I was planning an article about the Orchestra… but considering the fact that I have already written one before, and that I received a request to write about a specific song, which most people today recognize by it’s Orquesta Reve version, I will now be addressing this “issue” – La Ruñidera.

Are you familiar with this classic of Cuban music?
You should be, as cover versions exist in abundance, by many different artist from Santiago de Cuba to Nueva York and beyond…

So, first, what does “Ruñidera” mean?
As with many such words we often come across in Cuban music, this is a term from Cuban street slang, dating back to as far as the early XX century or even the late XIX century, a time when dancing was becoming a popular pass time for more and more people in Cuba, as opposed to only the higher and higher-middle classes, as it was before.
Also, this was a time when Afro Cuban culture was slowly beginning to sip into the mainstream, especially through the fields of music and dance, and many new genres were being born, such as Son and the various genres of Rumba.

Ruñidera comes from those times, and means “the time on the dance floor when a very popular song comes on, and everybody comes to dance” and can also mean “a dance-out, an informal dance (or musical) competition held at a dance venue or on the street”.
Which ever came first (the 1st one is more common, though), both terms reflect the phenomenon of an emergence of a popular dance culture at that time.

So, was this song written in new york, at the times of the inception of “salsa” music during the 1970’s? or maybe written and composed by the great Elio Reve during the 1980’s?
No and no yet again!

This song, like many other well known and much beloved composition, comes from much earlier, and started it’s life as an early Son Montuno, with some artists at the time performing it as a traditional son, as well.

Written and composed by Alejandro Rodriguez in late 1931 for Cuarteto Machin, it was performed in 1932 by Machin and also by Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro, with the later contributing a lot to the compositions’ popularization, as it was one of the more prominent ensembles of its time.

Machins’ version is a classical Son in the urban, Habana, style

And the one by the Septeto is an early Son Montuno, from the times before the genre was even formalized or defined!

Both are quite beautiful, aren’t they?
But these are not the well known ones…
The most famous interpretation comes from Orquesta Reve, from the groundbreaking 1985 album Rumberos Latinoamericanos, one of several albums from that time which brought Reve to the top of the hit charts back in the day.
Timba was not yet born, but this is a part of its vast roots and ancestors, in the style of “Changui del Reve”, which is a modernized take on Son Montuno, bringing back an amplified version of the classic Tres guitar, but also innovating with the semi-improvised bridges and solos that would later on become the “guias” of Timba.

Now, there is also the most recent version of this song, recorded by Elito Reve and the latest generation of Orquesta Reve, together with Cuban music legend Pablo Milanes, as a part of the anniversary album “la salsa tiene mi Son” which came out a few years ago, in 2016, dedicated to the Orchestras’ 60th (!!!) anniversary

So we had classical Son, Son Montuno and Changui del Reve so far… but speaking of Reve and his birthday, one cannot wrap things up without sharing this wonderful concert I came across the other day, featuring many of the Orchestras’ finest musicians from over the years, and also some special guests, all of whom share a deep connection with La Aplanadora de Cuba…

So thank you, Señor Reve!