Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spinning with the new sounds of Havana

Spinning with the new sounds of Havana
By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
November 26, 2009 -- Updated 1623 GMT (0023 HKT)

* Young Cuban musicians are stepping from the shadow of Buena Vista
Social Club
* They create a new sound, mixing traditional Latin rhythms with hip hop
and funk
DJ Gilles Peterson presents the best contemporary Cuban music talent

London, England (CNN) -- "It's soul, man!" pronounces Gilles Peterson,
his face lighting up as he takes a sip into his chilled mojito. "Cuban
music is from the heart, it's free, there are less rules somehow," the
DJ extraordinaire tells CNN about the endless energy of the island's music.

It's been 13 years since Ry Cooder and a group of outstanding elderly
musicians took the world by storm with "Buena Vista Social Club," a
global album hit which helped put Cuba on the world music scene.

Now, stepping from the shadow of Buena Vista, a generation of ambitious
young Cubans is daringly crossing diverse musical territories, creating
a fresh sound which fuses traditional Latin rhythms with hip hop and
funk grooves.

"Some years ago a few American rappers like Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and
the Roots went to Cuba and sowed the seeds for the underground hip hop
scene and now it's alive," says Peterson, whose latest project showcases
Cuba's contemporary musical effervescence -- from latin, afro jazz and
fusion to hip hop, funk, reggaeton and pop.
Cuban music is from the heart, it's free, there are less rules somehow
--Gilles Peterson

In "Havana Cultura," Peterson introduces to the world the likes of
honey-voiced Danay -- "an absolutely superstar" according to the
influential DJ -- and Ogguere, an energetic hip hop duo which blends
original Cuban rhythms with funk, rumba and rap.

These 21st-century Cuban musicians can delve into traditional music
forms with the same ease as they burst into vigorous rap lines. They
make up for the lack of access in technological means with an
unsurpassed passion and determination to communicate their art.

"The life of an artist in Cuba is a sacrifice," Danay told CNN. "We have
to use a lot of raw material and recycle it again and again because many
times the right conditions don't exist.

"There are many talented street artists who have to walk a much longer
road in order to write music and express themselves. But you can do it
if you work hard and if there's love for the art."

In tune with Havana's unique spirit, this fledging music movement works
best when performed live. On stage, the energy of the grooves and the
breadth of fresh talent stimulates all senses.

"When we perform our music we are passionate and sentimental," says
Ogguere's Edrey after a ferocious live performance in east London.
"Cuban art is conscious, it's hard, beautiful and lively. There is a lot
of energy and feeling."

A lack of funds and equipment cannot contain the scene's enthusiasm. As
the movement develops the musicians are becoming more ambitious.

"We want people to identify themselves with what we do -- regardless of
whether is salsa, hip hop or funky, all that mix of rhythms is our way
of making people enjoy what we do. We want them to learn a new
philosophy of life based on giving love, feeling happy and celebrate,"
says Ulises, also of Ogguere.

Influenced by the likes of James Brown, Fela Kuti and the Roots, Ogguere
say they rely on their friends across the world to get their hands on
foreign music since Cuban radio would play mainly salsa and reggaeton.

"These young Cuban musicians need help. Most of them don't have Internet
and this is quite radical, but they survive because they are so hungry
for information," says Peterson.

"In Europe people are a little bit more lazy, a bit more cynical, but
these were the most disciplined musicians I've ever worked with, they
wanted to take their opportunity."

Spinning with the new sounds of Havana - (26 November 2009)

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