Posts

By Laluly Romeri (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

Joy grows among Cuban musicians and music lovers after the beautiful nice they had yesterday during and after the Latin Grammys Awards 2022. Cuba and its musicians were awarded seven times last night from the ten nominations in various categories where Cuban musicians were competing. The event ended and left a pleasant surprise.

The musicians Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcava honored Cuban music after winning the award for Best Tropical Album for their album “Gonzalo Rubalcava y Aymée Nuviola live in Marciac.” At the same time, the Best Latin Jazz Album went to the multi-awarded in previous editions Chucho Valdés for the album “Mirror Mirror” with Eliane Elias and Chick Corea.

The video “This is not America” won the Best Short Form Music Video award. A joy distributed among its director Greg Ohrel, the Franco-Cuban sisters Ibeyi, and the Puerto Rican singer Residente. On the other hand, the Cuban singer Lenier Mesa and the Puerto Rican artist Marc Anthony won the award in the category of Best Tropical Song.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest joys of the night was the Best Folk Album category award for the album “Ancestros Sinfónicos” of the group Síntesis, a Cuban band currently celebrating its 46 anniversary.

The award for Best Salsa Album went to the Cuban recording and mixing engineer Juan Mario Aracil Mayito, who has been awarded in previous editions of the Latin Grammys. This time it was for the album “Pa’lla Voy” by an artist mentioned earlier, Marc-Anthony. This award emphasizes how much talent exists in Cuba in any musical field.

Finally, the Best New Artist award was a great surprise and pride for many, where 95-year-old Ángela Álvarez demonstrated that dreams can come true regardless of age. Her speech was one of the most emotional of the night because she longed for her homeland, Cuba, which inspired her to create each song.

Cuban music continues to position itself and grow within an industry where it is difficult to compete with music mostly made for the great masses. It demonstrates that the roots of musical traditions break any commercial barrier and that the most important thing is music, a universal language.

Mambo Music is back

By Laluly Romeri (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

¿Tú no querías Mambo? (did you want Mambo?) It’s the question of the moment for the public that follows good Cuban music and, above all, the talent of groups such as Toques del Río. A proposal accompanied by two musical creations from the band’s members, “Mambo No.0” and “Mambo Chípata.” These songs come to fill the existing void regarding the treatment of mambo music, which for many years was in the shadows despite having been one of the most popular and danced traditional Cuban music just a few decades ago.

“Mambo No.0” or “Mambo No.5”?

Yes, the correct title is “Mambo No.0”. This song is a special tribute from the boys of Toques del Río to Dámaso Pérez Prado, who is recognized as the most representative figure of this genre.

“Mambo No.0” is part of the first Toques del Río phonogram, “Pa que te sosiegues”, under the EGREM record label. The song specifically covers the lyrics of the mambo “Ni Habla” by Pérez Prado, in an evident fusion of genres such as pop, rock, and Charleston style of Swing Jazz music.

This back-in-time feeling brought by “Mambo No.0” has gained a lot of acceptance from both the Cuban and international public. The song was awarded in 2015 as the best fusion song at the Cuerda Viva Awards, an event dedicated to highlighting local talent in Cuba’s fusion and alternative music scene.

¿Tú no querías Mambo? Yes, we want more Mambo!

But the story does not end there. Toques del Río accepts its challenge to consume more Mambo with the delivery of a second composition, the “Mambo Chípata,” a creation that is also a challenge for the band due to the complexity included in the musical arrangement.

“Mambo Chípata” has been used on Cuban television as the theme for the program “Al Fin Sábado” presentation that premiered in the summer of 2018. This is just one example of the media impact of the band because many of their songs have been used on several occasions as incidental music for various television programs such as “Ruta 10” and “No te lo pierdas.” Added to this are the dance companies that have choreographed these songs for different kinds of shows.

Toques del Río has opened a new stage in the Mambo. Many of the singers and groups in Cuba have accepted this invitation to cultivate the Mambo again, demonstrating that the new generations are interested in enjoying, dancing, and listening to these rhythms.

 

If you like this traditional Cuban music we recommend you to check out our Spotify Playlist Cuban Traditional Songs. There you will find one of the “Chan Chan” versions and many other beautiful Cuban songs that you will certainly enjoy.  

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

One of the most iconic Cuban songs is undoubtedly “Chan Chan.” Many people can immediately identify that simple but delicious composition just by entering the four chords on which the song is based, authored by another of the great symbols of Cuban culture: Máximo Francisco Repilado, better known as Compay Segundo. Star of the Buena Vista Social Club, Compay achieved world fame with this traditional Cuban Music project. However, he was more than 70 years old and a respectable figure, an authority in Cuban Trova and Son music.

Compay Segundo never had academic musical training, but he brought an innate gift with which he would captivate everyone. One morning he woke up with the harmony in his head, to which he put the lyrics of one of his childhood anecdotes. He said he dreamed of the melody of “Chan Chan,” like many of his compositions. 

The song tells the story of Juanita and Chan Chan, two young lovers who wanted to get married. As they lived in poverty, they went “to the sea to sift sand” to find gold and thus be able to become independent. When the young Juanita entered the sea, her dresses got wet and clung to her body, so when she wiggled while she “shook the jibe,” the sensual movement of her figure caused “pain to Cha Chan.”

The author recreates this story that hides a subtle double meaning and turns it into an adventurous artwork, with some very well-suggested touches of eroticism, but never explicit or vulgar. The verses accompany a singular tumbao, not the typical Cuban son. It is a Phrygian turn in rhythm with such a peculiar cadence, resulting in an extremely simple and irresistible song. 

In other verses, he sings: “the love I have for you, I can’t hide it from you, the drool comes off, I can’t avoid it anymore.”

compay-segundo-chan-chan-cover

The journey of the song

Being a troubadour from the tip of his hair to the end of his feet, Compay Segundo begins his song by recounting one of the popular tours he used to do in his wanderings as a musician. The first verses of the single describe a route that includes several towns in the Holguín province, located east of the island of Cuba: “from Alto Cedro, I go to Marcané, I get to Cueto, I go to Mayarí.” Finally, the last verses are related to this introduction: “clear the straw path, that I want to sit on that log that I see, that I cannot get there.” Knowing the good humor of Cuban musicians and their propensity for double meanings, a second meaning related to the history of Juanita and Chan Chan can also be added to these final verses.

“Chan Chan” became known during the jam sessions of the Cuarteto Patria, directed by the great musician Eliades Ochoa, around 1987. Eliades says that the same year he had met Compay, and Compay had given him a cassette with his compositions, asking him to formally record them with his quartet so that he could earn some money from copyright. In that cassette came a son that Eliades drew attention to since the tumbao was quite unusual. That son was Chan Chan, to which Eliades Ochoa would later add his mastery to finish the bill for the song. 

The song was performed for the first time at the Casa de la Trova Santiaguera by Compay himself and the Patria quartet. The single immediately hit the public with its contagious cadence and natural grace. The composition was recorded on the Buena Vista Social Club album in March 1996, and its international premiere was on September 16, 1997.

Pope Juan Pablo Segundo invited the Compay Segundo group to give an exclusive concert in a small room below the papal office. There they performed “Chan Chan,” among other great classics of Traditional Cuban music. Even in the Vatican, they enjoyed this legendary song. This exquisite composition shows that simplicity is an exact path when you want to communicate something honest and meaningful. 

Experts could analyze the success formula of “Chan Chan”  endlessly. Yet, without a doubt, its pertinent arrangement has been an emphasized factor in helping the spontaneous flavor of its rhythm and harmony to shine and make even the most skeptical dance.

If you like this traditional Cuban music we recommend you to check out our Spotify Playlist Cuban Traditional Songs. There you will find one of the “Chan Chan” versions and many other beautiful Cuban songs that you will certainly enjoy.