Cuban Sounds: From Mambo To Pop, And Back Again

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25 min 30 sec
 
Alex Cuba. i i

Alex Cuba. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Alex Cuba.

Alex Cuba.

Courtesy of the artist

I started to seriously listen to music around 1972, when I became an active rather than passive listener, constantly searching for songs I'd never heard before. It was a great time to do it, because bands like Santana, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers were blurring the lines separating jazz, rock and Latin music long before they became their own genre: classic rock.

Sorry to namedrop, but I got a chance to chat with rock guitarist Pete Townshend yesterday before he appeared on Talk of the Nation to promote his new autobiography, Who I Am. One of the things he discussed was rock promoter Bill Graham's habit of booking avant-garde jazz acts with young rockers in late-'60s San Francisco. Townshend's eyes lit up when he described seeing saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk open for The Who at The Fillmore — an unlikely pairing that would never happen in today's music industry.

Then there's Latin Alternative music, which has consistently carried on that spirit of musical adventure. Extremely creative young musicians all over Latin America make listening to music as exciting as it was when everything was new to me — and they make a show like this week's hard to program, because there's so much from which to choose. Our travel schedules, Guest DJ shows and other logistical challenges have prevented us from presenting new music in a while. So we decided to package our latest picks separately: A few weeks ago, Jasmine Garsd showed off her finds, and today I do mine.

Curiously, my picks were largely Cuban-influenced, including Sergio Mendoza's fun reinterpretations of Perez Prado's 1950s-era mambo, DJ Mala's incredible soundscapes exploring traditional Cuban rhythms, Alex Cuba's Santeria-inspired pop music, and Ozomatli's kids project Ozokids, which circles back to mambo.

In my search for new sounds this month, I also came across the shimmering, pop-influenced Brazilian explorations of Sexy Fi. And, in Los Monedas' "Buena Suerte," I found a compelling story of how politics and cultural imperialism made musical history during the authoritarian reign of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

Like those who shaped my musical coming of age 40 years ago, the sonic explorers today remind me of a metaphor a friend once used to describe musicians who constantly challenge themselves: If the entire world were a tabletop and all of humanity gathered in the center, these musicians would be the brave souls who'd venture out to see just how far they could go.

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Comencé a escuchar música alrededor de 1972. Fue entonces que me converti en un oyente activo, constantemente buscando música que jamas había oído antes. Era una época maravillosa para ser amante de la música, ya que bandas como Santana, The Grateful Dead y The Allman Brothers estaban mezclando el jazz, rock, y la música latina antes de que esta fusion fuese un genero con conocido como "rock clásico."

No quiero hacer alarde, pero hace unos días tuve oportunidad de charlar con el guitarrista Pete Townsend aquí en NPR, justo antes de que lo entrevistaran para el programa Talk Of The Nation, en donde aparecía para promover su autobiografía- Who I Am (Quien Yo Soy). Una de las cosas sobre las cuales hablamos fue el hábito que tenía el promotor de rock Bill Graham, en la década de 1960, de organizar shows en los cuales ponía a tocar a grupos de jazz avante garde junto a jovenes rockeros. Estás fusiones se llevaban a cabo en los auditorios Fillmore en San Francisco. Townsend se emocionó al hablarme acerca de ver al saxofonista Rahsaan Rolan Kirk tocar justo antes de que subiese al escenario The Who.

Es una combinación inusual que jamás se daría en el ambiente commercializado y segregado de la música de hoy, pero que se lleva a cabo dentro del ambiente de la música Alternativa Latina. Hay un grupo de músicos jovenes, extremadamente talentosos, de toda América Latina, que estan creando música que me parece tan emocionante como cuando recién comencé a enamorarme de la música.

Como frecuentemente mi co-locutora Jasmine Garsd y yo estamos viajando ú organizando shows junto a invitados especiales, en el programa no siempre logramos presentar la música nueva que más nos gusta. Hace unas semanas, hicimos un show acerca de los nuevos hallazgos musicales de Jas, y hoy me toca a mi presentar los mios.

Curiosamente el show de hoy terminó siendo acerca de música con influencias cubanas; Sergio Mendoza reinterpreta los mambos que creó el cubano Perez Prado en 1950; DJ Mala crea unos fantásticos paisaje sónicos que exploran los ritmos tradicionales cubanos; Alex Cuba nos ofrece un pop inspirado en la santeria; y la banda Ozomatli toca canciones para niños inspirada en el mambo.En mi busqueda continua de nuevos sonidos, también hallé un brillante trabajo de pop brasileño que se llama Sexy Fi, que se trata de mentes creativas buscando maneras creativas de contar una historia. Y también encontré una fascinante historia acerca de como la política y el imperialismo cultural influenciaron la música durante el régimen autoritario del dictador español Francisco Franco.

Los exploradores musicales de hoy, al igual que aquellos que formaron mis gustos musicales hace mas de 4 décadas, me recuerdan a una metáfora que un amigo mío usaba para describir a los músicos que constantemente se esfuerzan por mejorarse a si mismos: si el mundo entero fuese una mesa, y toda la humanidad estuviese reunida en el centro, estos músicos serían los valientes que se aventuran a ver que tan lejos pueden ir.

Felix's Picks: From Mambo To Pop, And Back Again

Cover for Ruido En El Systema

Alex Cuba

  • Artist: Alex Cuba
  • Song: Sin Un Porque
Cover for Mambo Mexicano

Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta

  • Artist: Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta
  • Song: Mario Tambien Come
Cover for 10 Grandes Exitos

Perez Prado

  • Artist: Perez Prado
  • Song: Que Rico el Mambo

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Song
Que Rico el Mambo
Album
10 Grandes Exitos
Artist
Perez Prado
Label
RCA Records
Released
1989

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Cover for Mala in Cuba

Mala

  • Artist: Mala
  • Song: Mulata

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Song
Mulata
Album
Mala in Cuba
Artist
Mala
Label
Brownswood
Released
2012

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Cover for Ozokidz

Ozomatli

  • Artist: Ozomatli
  • Song: Balloon Fest

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Song
Balloon Fest
Album
Ozokidz
Artist
Ozomatli
Label
Hornblow
Released
2012

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Cover for Skanish Sound: Jamaican Influenced Music from Spain 1964-1972

Los 4 Monedas

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Song: Buena Suerte

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Song
Buena Suerte
Album
Skanish Sound: Jamaican Influenced Music from Spain 1964-1972
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Vampi Soul
Released
2012

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Cover for Best of & the Rest of Desmond Dekker

Desmond Dekker

  • Artist: Desmond Dekker
  • Song: 007 (Shanty Town)

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007 (Shanty Town)
Album
Best of & the Rest of Desmond Dekker
Artist
Desmond Dekker
Label
Action Replay
Released
1989

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Sexy Fi

  • Artist: Sexy Fi
  • Song:

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Nunca Te VI de Boa
Album
Nunca Te VI de Boa
Artist
Sexy Fi
Label
Far Out UK
Released
2012

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