Anga's Conga Line of New Music

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Miguel "Anga" Diaz's new CD is Echu Mingua. hide caption

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Cuban music, African folklore, jazz, and hip-hop all collide on a new recording by Cuban percussionist Miguel "Anga" Diaz. Diaz, commonly referred to as simply Anga, has played congas in many projects, Cuban and otherwise. His new CD, Echu Mingua, marks his debut as a bandleader. Reviewer Banning Eyre says it's a landmark recording.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Cuban music, African folklore, jazz and hip-hop all collide on a new recording by Cuban percussionist Miguel Anga Diaz. Anga, as he's known, has played congas with all sorts of records, not just Cuban. And this CD, Echu Mingua, marks his debut as a band leader. Banning Eyre has our review.

BANNING EYRE reporting:

Anga calls his CD Echu Mingua after the Yorabu saint of Crossroads, a Nigerian religious figure. That's important to know because when Anga merges elements from drums and chanting to brass, D.J. effects and an African lute, he doesn't think of it as a musical experiment but rather a religious ceremony.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: Even Anga's approach to his own instrument is original. Most conga players play two drums. Anga plays five, and when he tackles the melody on Thilonius Monk's Round Midnight, seven.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: Piano innovator Thilonius Monk isn't the only ancestor honored in Anga's musical ritual. There's a groovy take on saxophonist John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and there's a danzon, that's a dance genre popularized in Cuba back in the late 19th Century. This one features unbridled soloing from 90 something pianist Ruben Gonzales at the Buena Vista Social Club. It's one of the last recordings Gonzales made before he died.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: Anga grew up in the tobacco growing countryside of Castro's Cuba. As a young man in Havana he helped power Cuban jazz to new heights in the super group Irakere. He was part of a roots revival in Cuban music in the nineties and went on to play jazz and pop with musicians in Europe where he lives now. On Echu Mingua, Anga distills over a century of popular music history and spills it out with exuberant ease.

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EYRE: Legend has it Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads and traded his soul to become a blues master. This is Anga's musical crossroads. A place where D.J. scratchers, jazz giants, Yorabu spirits and classic Cuban dance music converse in real time. That's why Echu Mingua is so much more than world music fusion, it's the stuff of legend.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The CD from Anga is Echu Mingua. Our reviewer Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org.

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