various artists,
The Rough Guide to
the Cuban Music Story

(World Music Network, 2001)

Imagine the I Love Lucy show. Now imagine you are at Ricky's nightclub, the Tropicana (if memory serves correctly). Every time I pop in The Rough Guide to the Cuban Music Story I cannot help but be transported back in time to remember some of the musical talent showcased on reruns of that television comedy.

This CD contains more than 70 minutes of Cuban music presented over 15 tracks (both instrumental and with vocals). For residents of the U.S. of A., if Desi Arnez (a.k.a. Ricky) doesn't ring a bell, perhaps the Buena Vista Social Club will. Regardless, this CD has a surprising number of pieces that are easily recognizable whether you know they are Cuban or not.

The musical styles presented here range from mambo to Afro-Cuban big band jazz to swing, bebop and the rumba. What does all this have in common? It makes you want to dance! The various beats are infectious regardless of your ability to maintain a rhythm. This is a cool CD!

One of the more recognizable selections is "To Mario Bauza" by Bebo Valdes. This piece has a very familiar ring to it -- although I cannot place where I've heard it. I find this a common occurrence on this CD. I do not know the artist/band being listed, but I definitely recognize the signature sound.

Another example where this happens is with Guillermo Portabales singing on "El Carretero." The liner notes state that "Portabales wrote this Cuban and Latin American standard in the guajira style, which was his speciality [sic]." It further goes on to say that this piece has been covered quite often. Again, I am stumped as to where I have heard this song, but believe me that it would be familiar to most of you.

While these two songs cannot be sampled at Amazon.com, several other selections can be. It is worth your time to go check them out.

There are several other musicians/bands showcased on this CD including Beny More, Nino Rivera, Afro Cuban Jazz Project, Afro Cuban All Stars, Mario Bauza, Cuarteto Patria & Manu Dibango, Maraca, Pancho Amat, Orquesta Aragon, Cubanismo!, Sierra Maestra, Azucar Letal and Peruchin.

I truly enjoy listening to music from around the world. Music is, perhaps, the one universal language. Rhythm generally does not require translation. The music on The Rough Guide to the Cuban Music Story dates from the '50s through the '90s. I never realized how much influence Cuban music has had on the American scene. I think this CD is worth the purchase price just to see if you agree with me.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 14 December 2001



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