I am making this post with the intention, not to write an essay about music like I have sometimes done, but to have you listen to the music itself—and in doing so attempt to dispel the narrow-mindedness that we have about what constitutes Cuban music.
The current story on Cuban music is a dichotomous one. On the one hand, there is timba; on the other, there is Buena Vista Social Club.
In none, there is room for the following list of songs produced and performed by Cuban musicians in the 40s and the 50s, and which the salsa scene has appropriated and made theirs so well (most of these songs have non-Cuban covers which are very popular at salsa congresses/socials, and yet the original is never played), so that now it is hard to think of Cuba when we listen to songs like the ones on this list.
This is an attempt to correct that. Notice that all of the examples are from songs produced before the 1970s, the decade which is generally linked to the emergence of salsa.
Open your ears, and listen. But more importantly, think Cuba. Enjoy.
- “Rumba en el patio” (1947) by Conjunto Kubavana
- “Negro bonito” (c. 1943) by Kiko Mendive
- “El negro mambí” (c. 1952) by Conjunto Batari de Andar Dali
- “Pollo atrasado” (1956) by Vicentico Valdés y su orquesta
- “A romper el coco (1950) by Conjunto Casino
- “Como mango” (1960) by Pío Leiva
- “Mi fanfarrón” (1960) by Estrellas de Chocolate
- “Dulce con dulce” (c. 1953) by Jóvenes del Cayo
- “Sale a buscar” (1957) by Sonora Matancera
- “Sonrisa na’ ma” (1953) Celio González
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0IocY_oAVA Gloria Matancera, “Raton de Velorio”, recorded between 1947-1952
It’s just what the “salsa” musicians and producers did – appropriate Cuban music and present it as their own, with “DR”… to them and their recording companies, of course…
At least the older generation (before the 70’s) had enough courage and respect to say they are playing Cuban music.
They don’t even do that nowadays.
Personally, what I would like to hear more of in socials and parties (both “Cuban” and “not Cuban” ones) is music by Arsenio Rodriguez, which has a very distinctive Cuban sound and also great variety of genres.
You should write something for the blog, my friend. I’m no DJ, but having someone with that background talk about the frustrations (or not) of playing Cuban musicians at events where who get played are predominantly non-Cuban could be a great addition to the blog. Consider the idea. Cheers! https://sonycasino.wordpress.com/what-is-son-y-casino/test/
Thank’s for offering, I will consider it (I do love writing, and have a blog of my own as well).
I know you have your own blog. That’s exactly why I ask. 🙂