Singers Natty Bo, left, and Beny Billy of Ska Cubano help merge Jamaican ska and Cuban mambo and son.
Singers Natty Bo, left, and Beny Billy of Ska Cubano help merge Jamaican ska and Cuban mambo and son. Courtesy Cumbancha
Once upon a time, musical traditions mingled freely in the Caribbean. But after the Cuban revolution in 1959, Cuba's music became more isolated. The band Ska Cubano creates one kind of music that might have been if the revolution had never happened.
Peter Scott, British entrepreneur and music lover, brought the band together, envisioning a blending of Cuban mambo and son and the Jamaican precursor to reggae known as ska. The CD Ay Caramba! brings this parallel universe to the public.
Singers Beny Billy and Natty Bo lead the intermingling of cultural music styles. Billy was a street guitarist in Cuba. Bo, who grew up in Britain, discovered ska records at a yard sale as a 10-year-old. He later sang with the Top Cats, one of London's most popular ska bands.
Also contributing to the band: Jamaican trumpeter Eddy "Tan Tan" Thornton; Megumi Mesaku, a renowned ska saxophone soloist; and Cuban Ray Crespo, bass player and musical director.
The band is completing a West Coast tour minus Billy, who couldn't get a visa to come to the United States. But the band's music travels as freely as a Caribbean breeze.