Review of Rough Guide to the Music of Cuba 2009 – inc. Sierra Mastra: Soul of the Nation

Afficionados of Cuban music will be delighted to hear that this CD succeeds on every level. It gives a guide to the wide range of music that has emerged from Cuba, at least since the 1980's ( the more traditional style is cleverly represented on a bonus CD ‘Soul of the Nation' which celebrates the great Sierra Maestra, champions of old son), as well as dedicating virtually half the set to new and emerging artists. The entire album would also liven up any dance party.

At no point does the CD rely on cliché. The key album by the group Estrellas de Areito is well represented by a guaguanco son (unfortunately misspelt on the sleeve) and this is immediately followed by Sierra Maestra who roll call the great musicians and singers of Cuba. Even the track by the uninvitingly-named Afro Cuban Jazz Project is a slick and brilliant salsa.

The adventurous nature of the compilation is best represented by the track which links the classic section – concluding with a superb Los Van Van groove – to the contemporary sounds which feature, amongst others, the distinctive voice of female singer Osdalgia, the soulful Azucar Negra and the futuristic hip-hop of Madera Limpia. This central number features the incredible and inimitable sound of Pancho Quinto who combined the deep traditions of bata drumming and rumba with the tasty feel of Sly Stone style funk. This music seems to encapsulate all that is best about the Cuban approach to music making in that it is true to its roots as well as being enjoyable and great to dance to.

The 2 CDs are accompanied by a booklet which provides a good basic history of Cuban son and a well informed introduction to the music that has emerged recently. It is so much more than an accompaniment to the Rough Guide book and it quite capably stands alone as an excellent compilation, both for those who are new to Cuban music and others who want to discover what lies in the future.Dave Willetts Published in CubaSi Autumn 2009

To buy Rough Guide to the Music of Cuba 2009 2CD click here