Cuba: While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed : Alt.Latino The musical exchange between the United States and Cuba goes back to the 19th century. Thankfully, the two countries' political standoff never filtered down to musicians.
NPR logo

Cuba! While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed!

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495717683/496074516" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Cuba: While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed

Cuba: While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed

Cuba! While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed!

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495717683/496074516" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Editor's note: This is an encore presentation of a show that originally aired Sept. 30, 2016.

"Go before it changes!"

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that charge since the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which has prompted so many people to visit the island nation.

No doubt there will be quite a few changes in the coming years, especially economic ones. How it will all shake out is anyone's guess. But what hasn't changed is the close relationship that exists between the music of our two countries, which goes back at least to the 19th century. Spanish speakers use the phrase primos hermanos to refer to the relationship between familial first cousins, and that seems an appropriate description for the give-and-take that has been going on between the U.S. and Cuba, too.

During a recent visit to Havana, I sat down in cafes and home studios with Cuban musicians to trace that history in words and music. The politicians in both countries could learn a few things from those who make music about bridging gaps, finding common ground and even celebrating differences — because those are the kinds of skills needed to get a group of people together to play music.

And why not use those skills in geopolitics, right?

Hear The Songs

Sintesis, Ancestros. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Síntesis

  • Song: Oduddua
  • from Ancestros
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Ancestros
Album
Ancestros
Artist
Sintesis
Label
Qba
Released
1992

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

The Dixie Cups, Chapel of Love. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

The Dixie Cups

  • Song: Iko Iko
  • from Chapel of Love
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Chapel of Love
Album
Chapel of Love
Artist
The Dixie Cups
Label
Collectables Records
Released
1964

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

La Original Orquesta Aragon de Cuba. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Orquesta Aragón

  • Song: Almendra
  • from Original Orquesta Aragon de Cuba
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Original Orquesta Aragon de Cuba
Album
Original Orquesta Aragon de Cuba
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Orfeon
Released
2001

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Exitos de Siempre. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Olga Guillot

  • Song: Incertidumbre
  • from Exitos de Siempre
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Exitos de Siempre
Album
Exitos de Siempre
Artist
Olga Guillot
Label
Musart
Released
2001

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Al Final de Este Viaje. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Silvio Rodriguez

  • Song: Ojala
  • from Al Final De Este Viaje
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Al Final De Este Viaje
Album
Al Final De Este Viaje
Artist
Silvio Rodriguez
Label
Fonomusic (spain)
Released
1995

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Juan Formell y los Van Van. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Los Van Van

  • Song: De La Habana A Matanzas
  • from Coleccion: Juan Formell Y Los Van Van, Vol. 6
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Coleccion: Juan Formell Y Los Van Van, Vol. 6
Album
Coleccion: Juan Formell Y Los Van Van, Vol. 6
Artist
Los Van Van
Label
Termidor Music

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Yemaya. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Irakere feat. Chucho Valdés

  • Song: Yemayá
  • from Yemayá
YouTube

Buena Vista Social Club. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Buena Vista Social Club

  • Song: Chan Chan
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Buena Vista Social Club
Album
Buena Vista Social Club
Artist
Buena Vista Social Club
Label
Elektra/Asylum

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cuba's Queen of Rhythm. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Celia Cruz

  • Song: Vamos a Guarachar
  • from Cuba's Queen of Rhythm
YouTube

Buy Featured Music

Song
Cuba's Queen of Rhythm
Album
Cuba's Queen of Rhythm
Artist
Celia Cruz
Label
Palladium
Released
1995

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?