CUBA ON RECORD
I write about Cuban music, create Cuban music playlists and radio stations, consult on Cuba-related projects and speak and teach about Cuban music, and of course, listen constantly to Cuban music across eras and styles.
For a sampling of my coverage of Cuban music and cultural politics over the past three decades - articles, playlists and radio interviews - please follow this link to the CUBA ON RECORD ARCHIVE.
I hope that you also enjoy listening to these playlists!
Afro-Cuban sacred beats for positive vibes.
Abre Camino! Sacred Afro-Cuban drum rhythms beat a new path, opening our road for what’s to come, as they hint at hot and sweaty nights ahead, dancing outdoors. Salutes to the Afro-Cuban saints, Gods of the earth, ocean and fire, give strength, with the ancient rhythms -- hands pounding skin -- that drive all of Cuban music.
I’m sending out my own thanks and praises, and sending positive vibes for everyone with this mix of pure rumba rhythms and Afro-Cuban chants. Drink some rum, spill some for the Orishas, and get your spirit moving. Ashé.
Las canciones más cubanas.
A selection of some of the greatest Cuban songs. Cuban classics, songs that express the Cuban soul, songs about food, songs about women and other Cubania - the first in a series!
This mix is a tribute my favorite Cuban piano men. They include Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdes, Frank Emilio Flynn, Bola de Nieve, Harold Lopez Nussa, Michel Fragoso, Bebo Valdes, Arturo O'Farrill and more. So much feeling, rhythm, history and revolution in those keys.
When Bebo Valdés passed away at age 94 in 2013, he not only left behind a legacy as one of the founders of Latin jazz; he had achieved one of the greatest late=life musical comebacks ever. One of Cuba's most celebrated pianists in a country of keyboard kings, Valdés, sat at the piano of the Tropicana during the club's heyday. The composer and band leader left Cuba in the early 60s and lived quietly in Sweden before a spectacular second act of Grammy-winning albums and world tours. I first interviewed Bebo, when he was on the cusp of his comeback in the early Nineties, and for years after the old-school galan sent me an annual Christmas card . One afternoon in a hotel bar in New York, I asked Bebo to describe for me a soundtrack of his life; he told me his Latin and Jazz favorites and the stories behind them. Here, I've put them in a mix for you.
Indie guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela recorded their album “Area 52” in Havana, following the historical tradition of collaborating with artists on the island, an exchange that birthed Latin jazz before diminishing in the 1960s. Although the Buena Vista Social Club seemed like a watershed moment for a resurgence of recording in Cuba, there have been relatively few projects of this kind, and R y G’s is notable for really making room for a Cuban group, rather than just giving a little Cuban tinge to the album. "We were thinking about trying to get our music played by a Cuban orchestra without them being too involved," Rodrigo Sanchez told me for an article I wrote in Billboard Magazine, "But when we got there it was totally different." This mix also includes recent made-in-Havana tracks with Gilles Peterson, Wynton Marsalis, and hip-hopera Ana Tijoux, and from Ry Cooder and Manuel Galvan's Mambo Sinuendo, which, though though it sold less than Buena Vista, is much groovier.
The Dickensian threat of no Christmas, an ongoing theme of kids holiday stories and shows at this time of year, was actually carried out for decades by Fidel Castro, who, after declaring an atheist state at the start of his Revolution, ended Christmas celebrations in 1969. Listen here.