various artists,
Out of Cuba: Latin American Music takes Africa by Storm
(Topic, 2004)

This CD was meant to capitalize in the renewed popularity of Cuban and other Latin American musics. Perhaps the success of the film Buena Vista Social Club and other CDs has brought this music back into prominence.

The 21 tracks, from a variety of artists -- mostly but not exclusively from Cuba -- are selected to show how Latin American musics influenced what was going on in then-colonial Africa. Originally, these were released on 78-rpm records, giving us an idea of the antiquity of these efforts (1933-58): the sound of the dawn of the recording era.

These are recordings of varied sound quality from the British Library sound archives. Originally, they were meant for listeners in places like Dakar, Maputo, Lagos and Libreville.

Accordingly, this CD is primarily of interest to those researching the history of these different musics and those with a special interest, rather than the casual listener. Yet despite the caveat about the sound -- inevitable to a certain extent with archived recordings -- the initial energy, musicianship and passion shines through on many of these songs.

Also, before anyone thought of globalizing the economy, it shows the cultural links forming between the emerging countries of Africa and Latin America -- especially interesting considering the initial roots of much Cuban and also Brazilian music -- and what makes it so interesting -- was in songs and musical styles originally brought from Africa.

Songs here are in various styles, mostly the son style of Eastern Cuba. Besides this, there are rumba (and rumba son), bolero (and bolero son), guajira, samba and balao (a precursor of forro) -- the latter two being from Brazil and sung in Portuguese.

Musicians featured include the Matamoros Trio (also the Matamoros Sextet, Septet...), the Catalan-born Xavier Cugat, Don Azpiazu, Trio Yara, Rico's Creole Band, Canario y su Grupo from Puerto Rico and, from Brazil's northeast, Luiz Gonzaga.

This is an interesting CD idea, but again, for a specialized audience. The notes are extensive, but more information on the featured artists would be welcome.

review by
David Cox

9 January 2010

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