The Caribbean Reigns Supreme on Three New Tracks You Have to Hear

By 14 March, 2018

There’s no shortage of new music coming out of the Caribbean. Artists routinely dominating the charts in the widely encompassing urbano genre hail from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and hip-hop and jazz artists from Cuba have been profiled in outlets such as the New York Times and NPR.

But make no mistake about it—salsa, son and other traditional styles of music from Puerto Rico and Cuba have never really gone out of style, thanks to strong dance scenes and increased tourism, especially in Cuba in the last couple of years.

Our point is the Caribbean has always been home to small Latin American islands that pack a powerful musical punch. So why not share new tracks inspired by them? Here are three new tracks by artists— some hailing from the Caribbean—that you should have on your playlists:

Orquesta Akokán| Mambo | Cuba

Orquesta Akokán is a big band collective of Havana’s top musicians who joined forces with some of the most creative and spirited talents of New York’s Latin music scene.You might have heard of their record label: Daptone Records, the same outfit that is home to the music of both the late great soul singers Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.

The band is the brainchild of singer José “Pepito” Gómez (who defected from Cuba in 2008), producer Jacob Plasse (who composes music for and plays with Los Hacheros, and runs Chulo Records), and pianist, composer and arranger Michael Eckroth. This group reinvigorates the sound of the golden era of Cuban mambo with a bold new energy, and we’ll have more on them in the near future.

Listen to their first single, “Mambito Rapido,” which our friend Felix Contreras of NPR’s Alt.Latino described as “An explosion of brass and saxophone call the dancers to order then the rhythm rides on the pulse of the saxes, calling to mind the full bodied sound of past masters Perez Prado and Tito Puente,” below. Catch Orquesta Akokán live at their album release party at Brooklyn’s Union Pool on the 30th of March.

Los Rumberos de la Bahia| Rumba | Cuba

Rumba can be played anywhere—at the kitchen table, on some buckets in the patio, on a desktop—whenever and wherever rumberos decide to start playing clave and want to sing about what’s going on their lives.

That’s the way it’s long been in Cuba, and that approach was transplanted fairly seamlessly to the United States as Cubans came to places like New York, Miami, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Los Rumberos de la Bahia are the result of what happens when you pay respect to your elders. Latin jazz percussionist Michael Spiro and Cuban native Jose Luis Gomez bonded over rumba in San Francisco in the early 1980s. They played together for years, and later came to “share” a Cuban elder who instructed and inspired them, Regino Jimenez Saez, one of the few Cubans who was able to obtain a visa to come to the United States to perform and teach. When he passed in 2005, Michael and Jose Luis vowed they would record an album to honor him. But, as it happens, life got in the way.

A decade later, along with producer/percussionist/vocalist Jesus Diaz (who has played with everyone from Carlos Santana to Sheila E) the trio are Los Rumberos de la Bahia and pay tribute to “los mayores” (the elders) who sustained and guided them. Their album, Mabagwe (“Remembrance” in Yoruba), will be released on Friday, the 23rd of March.

Check out “Lo Que Me Dijo Chango” below, and follow percussionist Michael Spiro’s live shows here.

Héctor “Coco” Barez | Bomba fusion | Puerto Rico

The album El Laberinto del Coco (Coco’s Labyrinth) originated from the artistic vision of the Puerto Rican percussionist Héctor “Coco” Barez and his desire to synthesize his wide-ranging musical experiences. Feeding the senses through his multi-layered compositions, Coco uses bomba, the oldest musical tradition of African descent in Puerto Rico, as a link between his experiences in the island and abroad.

Barez plays percussion for salsa outfit Bio Ritmo and bolero group, Miramar.

His new record brings together more than 20 musicians and friends from Puerto Rico, Spain, United States, and Réunion Island (a French department in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar).

Listen to shoulder and hip-shaking track “Bombuleria” below, and catch Barez playing in various parts of Puerto Rico for Circo Fest from the 16th through the 18th of March.




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