Various Artists

Si Para Usted Volume 2: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba

Waxing Deep

Oct 23, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Fidel Castro's communism had incredible, if often polarizing, effects on the music industry of Cuba. The island employed state-subsidized musicians who earned steady paychecks, and these artists had relatively little concern about their commercial success, giving them free reign to experiment and play from the heart. On the other hand, there was very limited access to recording equipment and the raw materials necessary to record and create albums. This, in conjunction with the inept centralized record label, meant that there were amazing musicians tearing up the island, but who might have to wait years to record. And even if those recordings managed to pass censorship, they still might not even get into fans' hands.

Working with a license from EGREM, Cuba's state-run record label, Dan Zacks has managed to bring another 16 tracks of endangered music to print. Most of the songs here span multiple genres, often fusing traditional Cuban music with jazz, funk, or rock. And although EGREM worked to suppress American influences in what it published, those sounds inevitably crept in. Orquesta Cubana De Música Moderna pulls out a cover of Ides of March's "Vehicle" that is smoking, the Latin influence taking the song to a new level. American influence can also be found in the hugely popular band Los Barba. Represented by two tracks here, the band has a light funk vibe akin to Earth, Wind and Fire.

Of course, Cuban elements dominate the compilation. Grupo Monumetal's son "Tremendo, Tremendo" hops with a driving percussion section and horn blasts, and Los Caribes' "Andalucia," another son, is a dance hit with just enough funk. Finally, Los Papines' "Para Que Niegas" incorporates a jazz bass line, percussive "beatboxing," a mellow organ, and a lounge-y lead vocal. The opening of the song would have fit in with any evening at the nightclub, but the vocal interplay that takes over halfway through is a mesmerizing tangle of Spanish scat. This track alone makes the entire album worth owning and, along with volume one, this is essential music for anyone interested in Cuba's musical legacy. (www.waxingdeep.org)

 

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