Cuban Son Through the 20th Century: A Playlist
Written by Jarryd Randolph
It only took a few days to put it together but the information surrounding it took a lot longer and is an every-day learning experience. I have managed to put together a list of the musical genre of Cuban Son from the 1920s to now.
This dance genre has gone through many changes and an ongoing experimental phase in its later years. The innovations of Cuban musicians/composers in the Son is incredible.
Listen fully to this list and you will be amazed at the transitions through most decades. 1968 is when Juan Formell began experimenting as well as others because Irakere and Los Van Van were definitely the game changers, both releasing albums in 1974. From then on Songo and Timba became the latest craze. With all the Conjuntos, Big bands and Charangas no one band has the same sound. So the last 15 videos in this list to some ears will be all over the place but still stays true to the genre of Son all while enjoyed and danced by many!
The idea came up because I could not find anything that would demonstrate the musical genre through time, earliest recordings to now. I’ve gone through many documentaries, read books on the subject, and even had conversations about the subject but a musical playlist was something that just wasn’t out there publicly. I’ve had plenty of conversations where I can talk about it but through listening nothing was readily available. We all know how hard it can be to find those early recordings. The Internet can be an amazing tool!
I’m a Casino dance instructor so for me getting students, as well as anyone who asked about the music, to understand the evolution of Son is important to the heritage of Cuban music. The music is something I continuously find. I either have peers recommend groups or I’m just constantly looking for music my ears have not heard or just stumbling across music. I’m an avid listener of Cuban and American music, Caribbean, Afro-Latin, and African music. But the dance genre of Son is very enjoyable. It’s amazing what’s out there that people haven’t heard or probably haven’t heard in many years. I made sure that this compilation took all listeners through time and through the many styles of Cuban groups. This list could have been a lot longer but I made sure that 30 songs was the cutoff.
For new listeners or dancers hearing the word “Son” will be something very unfamiliar because in America it is something that lacks in the ballroom and in most other “salsa” dance companies. This list helps them get an understanding of what Cuban Son sounds like in all of its stages of life. I made sure to include key figures and groups such as Arsenio Rodriguez, Sonora Matancera, Orquesta Aragon, Los Van Van, Charanga Habanera, Manolín el “Médico de la salsa,” etc. so to many new listeners and dancers this compilation will answer some questions about this dance genre—and probably create new ones.
The inspiration of this list comes from my willingness to learn but also to educate people on Cuban popular music.
Hope you enjoy!
About the Author:
Jarryd has been an instructor of Cuban dance for over 5 years. Specializing in Casino and Rueda de Casino in the Tampa Bay area. He has taught at the Unity Dance Festival in Orlando and Tampa Salsa & Bachata Festival, performed at the Atlanta Bachata Festival, Jacksonville Salsa Jam, Unity Dance Festival, 8th Annual Spanish fair at USF, Macy’s Hispanic heritage event, local Multicultural events, and Paradise Dance Festival. Jarryd’s main focus is promoting Cuban dance and music to the Tampa Bay area community as well as surrounding areas. He created Rueda in Tampa Parks in 2014, a free community dance class in order to help promote Cuban dance. His passion exceeds the dance floor delving into the music genres of Cuba and other traditional and folkloric dances. Every instructor is still a student in some way as is he when it comes to learning more about Cuban dance and music culture which go hand-in-hand.