July 02, 2005

Cuban Music

One of the most significant contributions Cuban culture has made to world culture is music. I’m often asked about Cuban music and musicians by people from all over the world; Spain, Argentina, Japan, Africa… I’m still knocked out by the fact that people are listening to Chucho Valdez in Africa… Are they listening to Ernesto Lecuona in Paris? Likely.

In San Francisco? Yes! I can verify that Cuban music is alive and well in the west coast’s most eastern city, and not just in the Mission District where the Latinos hang out, but also in the Haight and the Fillmore, in North Beach and the Tenderloin. Sometimes you hear it coming through the houses as you walk down the street, in used bookstores and coffee houses.

Black Americans have known about Cuban music for a while… since the late forties/early fifties, I’d guess. Sure, they kept it a secret, shared only with “the worthy” and “the lucky few.” But in San Francisco & LA (as it might be on east-coast cities & selected red states) the secret is out now.

As, well, it should be.

I was surprised to hear the Buena Vista Social Club in a Salt Lake City BORDERS about 4-5 years ago. And not just one song but several tracks. This is the same Borders where Oliver North might drop by for some magazines and audio books. (Remember him? He’s a working acquaintance of Posada Carrilles.)

Wherever music comes from, it belongs to the experience of life. Record companies and the legalities of commerce notwithstanding, music is a spiritual requirement of life. What food and sleep does for the body, music does for the soul. I’m glad that the embargo has not locked out Cuba’s music from our vast list of everyday choices, and I wish that the Cubans in Cuba had as much access to music as I do.

This week, aside from Cachao and Mongo Santamaria (Afro-American Latin is a masterpiece) I’ve been listening intensely to “eco” by Jorge Drexler. He’s not a Cuban, I believe that he comes from Argentina, but I had to mention him. A few months ago Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas performed his song “Al Otro Lado del Rio” live during the Academy Awards. It was a good performance, but it can’t match what’s on this CD. I think the Academy should have allowed Drexler to perform his own song, which won the Academy award for Original Song.

More on Cachao and Mongo later.

Good Rhythms


Blogger leftside said...

Great blog, check mine out: mglesne.blogspot.com.

Unfortunately authentic Cuban music is hard to come by in the States. Check out Cubamusic.com a new site offering 1Euro downloads of hundreds of Cuban artists. Of course Irakere and Los Van Van were/are awesome. When I was there it seemed eveyone was a musician and music was everywhere. The quality of music was unbelievable in the clubs... and it keeps changing.

Check Omar Sosa too - a Cubano living in Oakland.

12:53 AM, August 04, 2005  

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