The little country that gave birth to the Montecristo, the Bolivar and the Partagas, amongst other cigar brands, has also recently become famous for another export – music.
The release of the Buena Vista Social Club CD in 1997 introduced Cuban music to a worldwide audience. The album, produced by American guitarist Ry Cooder, featured a collection of veteran Cuban musicians; many of whom had been famous players in their own right decades earlier when a pre-revolutionary Havana was the international playground for the rich and famous in the 1950’s.
The collection went on to become an international best seller and gave birth to several additional spin off albums that re-launched the careers of its more senior key players – Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo.
However, as great as these releases are they represent only a fraction of the sounds coming from this Caribbean culture.
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel to this fascinating island knows that their music is like some kind of indigenous species native to the country. The sounds and rhythms are everywhere and seem to seep out from the crumbling buildings on every corner.
To try and classify or highlight any one particular style would be a great disservice to this historic island. Over the years the sounds of Africa, Europe and the USA have washed ashore to help make Cuban music probably the most popular of all the world music genres.
Another wonderful introduction to the exotic rhythms of Cuba can be found on two of Putumayo’s World Music collections – Café Cubano and Cuba. Both of these compilations feature a wide variety of artists and their intoxicating rhythms succeed in transporting the listener to the land of rum, sun and of course cigars.
The Cuban music scene like the country continues to evolve, with recent trends including the blending of ska and rap to their native sounds.
For a country that has had more then its fair share of hard times and isolation, it’s fascinating that their music is so full of warmth and joy for life. It’s a passion that comes through in all of their music. It’s a sound that is best enjoyed with their most famous export – a Cuban cigar.