During your trip to Cuba, music will surround you. A unique, invigorating music that immediately, irresistibly, makes you want to dance. And smile. Here are our top five songs to listen to during a trip to Cuba.
Amor de loca juventud, Buena Vista Social Club
(album: Buena Vista Social Club)
It was thanks to Ry Cooder that this 'crazy young love' and all the other tracks on the album had this success. Buena Vista Social Club was originally the name of a legendary nightclub where Cuban music stars performed from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1959, after the revolution, the club was closed. When the guitarist decided to make this record, on which he plays with a whole range of Cuban musicians who have been composing and singing for decades (Compay Secundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Israel Lopez...), things quickly took off. The record was made in five days in Havana in 1997, Cooder received a Grammy award the following year; Wim Wenders made the documentary, the legend was born and the group of smiling grandpas bursting with energy spread their message worldwide. It is delightful to listen to the album, but particularly on home turf.
La Tradicion no se olvida, Los Naranjos
(Album: El son es lo mas sublime)
This song is a tribute to 'son cubano', the basis of all Cuban music, mother of cha-cha-cha, mambo, songo, timba, and also salsa, rumba... the list goes on.
The sound that makes us dance was born at the end of the 19th century around Santiago in Chile and is played by three people on a four-stroke rhythm, fairly steady to begin with. When it moved to Havana it became richer, moving to six musicians, and the rhythm accelerated, to get you dancing even more.
'El son es lo más sublime/para el alma divertir/se debiera de morir/quien por bueno no lo estime', (the 'sound' [son cubano] is the most sublime to entertain the soul and anyone who does not value it does not deserve to live) goes another song, Suavecito, performed by el Septeto Nacional Cubano.
Llego el changui de la maya, Grupo changui de Guantanamo
(album : !Ahora si! Llego el changüi)
Even before son cubano, there was the changui, born in the middle of the 19th century in the eastern part of Cuba. It was the music of the countryside, a real mish-mash, played during the cumbanchas (improvised peasant festivals) where they sang, accompanied by the little Cuban guitar originally three strings stretched across a crate, the marimbula, an instrument derived from the African Mbira and, in Cuba, improvised by striking old razor blades on cigar boxes; maracas, which came from the Tino Indians; guayo, a metal rasp stroked by a stick, and the bongo, the Cuban double drum.
Las leyendas de Grecia, Afrocuba
(Album: Cuba in Washington)
Although sung in Spanish, this is the most African song on this playlist, with percussive rhythm in the foreground. It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million enslaved Africans passed through the small island of Cuba. Though physically slaves, they took with them their rites and rhythms, which had been passed down through the centuries, sometimes mixing with others, and leaving a beautiful musical mark. There is no doubt that you will hear this track in Cuba and it will remain with you.
Sago, by Harold Lopez-Nussa, with Alune Wade
And finally a piece by Harold Lopez-Nussa, which goes beyond the island's sound. The song's intro is almost classical. Alune Wade's resolutely warm Senegalese voice is superimposed on it and Cuban rhythms only come in at the third stage, to create this unique track, written by a citizen of the world, emblematic of his latest album, entitled 'Havana-Paris-Dakar', and of the multiple facets of the musician who excels in both classical music (his original training), jazz - he won the Montreux Jazz Piano first prize -, Cuban jazz and all kinds of experimental music.