Cuba in a Funk and Funky

Si Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2
Si Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2 (Waxing Deep Records WAX003, 2009)

When Castro’s Cuban regime was at its most repressive, state-subsidized musicians were free to be creative and yet subject to censorship if their music was deemed objectionable, even on grounds that were arbitrary at best. Under such two-faced conditions, coupled with the fact that the country’s music industry was ineptly run and resource-challenged, it’s a wonder that some artists were able to make music at all. Indeed, some of the bands on this sequel to 2006’s first volume had bodies of work that were hardly extensive. So while the names on volume two tend toward obscure, the songs are scrumptious delights that deserve to be anything but forgotten. We’re talking truly funky here, the sort of ass-in-gear 1970s funky that maybe even the government censors found irresistible.

Prominent bass lines, swelling organs, swinging horns, fuzzed guitars and soul-brimming vocals provide fuel along with more than enough Latin percussion and inflections. And there seems to be no limit as what these folks could put the funk into, be it a cover of a 1920s bolero (Los Llamas’ “Siboney”), charanga-based sounds courtesy of a local youth militia (“Vanguardia y Juventud” by Sonopop) or the otherwise acapella vocal wizardry of Los Papines on the dizzying “Para Que Niegas.”

These re-mastered tracks retain the classic charm essential to collections like this, and detailed liner notes tell the stories, often humorous though sometimes not, of how such sizzling sounds came to be. Yeah, I know there’s a ton of available Cuban music worthy of getting your hands on, but try to make this one a priority.

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Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.


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