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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Madera Limpia is a young Cuban pop group from Guantanamo. The remote Cuban town is separated from the sea by the famous U.S. base there. Life is hard for the locals, living between the Castro regime and the Americans. And Madera Limpia sing and rap about that life on their debut CD "La Corona."

Reviewer Banning Eyre says the album offers one of the freshest new sounds coming out of the Caribbean.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BANNING EYRE: The tres with its chiming, paired strings produces one of the signature sounds of Cuban music, especially its more rural varieties. Most young Cuban rappers would consider the instrument old school and not in the cool way. But add a little distortion and back it with a heavy beat, and suddenly the picture changes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOCA FLOJA")

Unidentified Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

EYRE: This song is called "Boca Floja," or big mouth, and it talks about glib government spies who engage you in loose conversation and then report what you say to the police. That's another way Madera Limpia are breaking new ground in Cuban music: They dare to speak such truths openly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOCA FLOJA")

Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

EYRE: Madera Limpia is all about keeping faith under trying circumstances. The corona, or crown, in the CD title is the crown of dignity. The band's sound dignifies the history of Cuban music, referencing everything from salsa to traditional, African-derived drumming but always with a modern twist: The rowdy spirit of dancehall, reggaeton and hip-hop is ubiquitous.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

EYRE: Madera Limpia had two tours in Europe while they worked on "La Corona." Their global appeal is part of an emerging subgenre, call it world hip-hop, music with foreign language and musical colors, but also plenty of rapping, sampling and contemporary beats.

Madera Limpia do all of that without pandering. These are sounds Guantanamo youth want to hear and words that give voice to their struggles and passions like the song "Tu Papa," your daddy says, the complaint of a poor, uneducated guy trying to get respect from his girlfriend's father.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TU PAPA")

Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

EYRE: Right outsider, the beauty of Madera Limpia is their playful fluidity of styles. They may live in a rundown town in a house with a leaky roof, but they possess the musical vocabulary and chops to make you feel the pent-up energy of Cuban youth. This is the authentic voice of a new Cuba, ready to re- engage the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TU PAPA")

Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "La Corona" by Madera Limpia.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Man #1 (Singer): (Singing foreign language)

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