For International Jazz Day – the legacy of Irakere + young Cuban jazz stars looking to the future

Chucho Valdes with Irakere

To celebrate #InternationalJazzDay this 30 April – watch this interview with Chucho Valdes — Cuban jazz pianist, composer, founder and leader of the legendary band Irakere, and winner of six Grammys and three Latin Grammys — talking with the US Congress Library’s Claudia Morales about his childhood, his career, his connection with his late father (and famous pianist) Bebo Valdes and his next projects, in spanish with english subtitles.

“Tell me, looking back, what do you think is Irakere’s legacy to music?”
>> Chucho Valdés: Look, now I can say it. When we were doing it, we were doing what we wanted to do, what we thought we should do, but without any pretensions.
…So Irakere really was a concept that created a starting point for another vision of what Afro-Cuban music was. First, it was taking the elements of jazz and the most modern jazz, going to the African roots and using all the rhythms, using the instruments, including the Yoruba language, the Lucumí. And to make that fusion, right?, Which was incredible. So far no one had done anything like it. And also, afterwards we thought about making Cuban dance music. The batá drum had never been used for dance music. And so I composed a song called Bacalao con Pan, which remains a standard …where for the first time the batá drum is inserted into popular dance music and is used on pentatonic scales in the introduction. And …what is called the Cuban Timba is born. We created that one. With Bacalao con Pan, the first time the orchestra stops and the piano continues the tumbaos, and then the bass comes in, instead of playing notes, making percussion effects, and that opened everyone’s eyes . Also the Black Mass (La Misa Negra). That, …was a work where I thought about how to make an African mass. A spiritual mass, how to sing in Yoruba, how to play all those rhythms and sing in the language, and mix it with all the elements that I had from jazz and other elements that I also had. Including funk. It was a bomb. But an incredible music bomb, because Misa Negra’s debut was in 1970. ..”

Listen to a live version from 1979 of the great ‘Miss Negra’ by Irakere

Read more about the legendary Chucho Valdes and Irakere here >>



Watch this short film about young jazz musicians in Cuba

Doc: Making of ‘Habana Jazz: Mirando al Futuro’ (Abdala Productions) 17 mins

In spanish no english subtitles – but it brings together many of the brightest emerging young jazz musicians in Cuba, graduates of the music schools and the JoJazz annual festival for young musicians.

Listen to track ‘Buscando Fantasia’ by young group ‘Evolucion Cubana’ here from the album.