Throughout September and October, the Spanish-speaking nations and Hispanic residents in the United States celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) in the United States. Other countries celebrate the Dia de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Heritage Day).
During the monthlong Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, the United States honors the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. World Music Central has put together a list of recent recordings that showcase the diversity of Hispanic music.
Old-School Revolution is an irresistible album by the Hip Spanic Allstars, a new supergroup that brings together members of iconic bands Santana, Tower of Power, Spearhead, and Los Mocosos.
The multinational band celebrates and updates the exciting music made in the 1970s where Spanish Caribbean salsa and Latin jazz met rock and African American soul and funk.
One of the most exciting artists out of Cuba is Eme Alfonso, a talented artist that grew up in a family of groundbreaking musicians, Grupo Sintesis. Her album discography includes Eme (Colibrí) and Voy. Eme has been releasing a series of mesmerizing videos with her latest songs, including:
Cuba is also a land of extraordinary pianists. This is year there has been a wave of albums by some of Cuba’s finest, who combine jazz and Cuban roots music: Alfredo Rodríguez – The Little Dream (Mack Avenue MAC1130, 2018), Dayramir González – The Grand Concourse (Machat Records, 2018), and Un Día Cualquiera by Harold López-Nussa (Mack Avenue).
Cuban pianist and composer Omar Sosa has a new album with fellow Cuban vocalist and violinist Yilian Cañizares titled Aguas, scheduled for release on OTA Records on October 5, 2018. Afro-Cuban roots meet Western classical music, and jazz.
The legendary Cuban guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Eliades Ochoa (of Buena Vista Social Club fame) has released a delightful instrumental album with Cuban guitarist Alejandro Almenares – Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana (Tumi Music, 2018).
One of the iconic Cuban albums of the 1990s, A toda Cuba le gusta (World Circuit) by Afro-Cuban All Stars has been remastered and reissued on vinyl.
Canada-based Cuban musicians Okan (Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne) have a debut EP titled Laberinto, scheduled for release October 19, 2018. Okan mixes fusion jazz, traditional Cuban music, Mexican influences and jazz swing.
With 127 million residents, Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country. The Mexican diaspora has brought mariachi music, norteño and son jarocho to the United States. Mariachi Herencia de México, formed by students from Chicago’s Mexican-American neighborhoods has a new album titled Herencia de la Tierra Mía (Heritage of My Land).
The charming self-released album features iconic Mexican American world music artist Lila Downs, Mexican mariachi star Aida Cuevas and Mexican harp virtuoso Ivan Velasco Herencia de la Tierra Mía includes sones, passionate boleros and a delightful jarocho medley. It was produced by acclaimed Spanish producer Javier Limón, director of the Mediterranean Music Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Mexican vocalist Magos Herrera (currently based in New York) celebrates Ibero-American (the music of Spanish and Portuguese countries) culture on her new album Dreamers (Sony Music Masterworks). Magos Herrera collaborates with the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. This is not a chamber jazz album, but rather a cross-genre recording where Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider invited guest percussionists on flamenco and global percussion, and flamenco star Miguel Poveda.
Magos Hererera performs songs with lyrics by renowned songwriters and poets and writers, including Octavio Paz, Rubén Darío, and Federico García Lorca. It’s a fascinating production with exquisite arrangements.
Son jarocho, with its captivating guitars and poetic lyrics combines the basic roots of Veracruz’s Mexican musical culture: Spanish guitars and poetry, indigenous rhythms and Afro-Caribbean influence. New York-based Radio Jarocho and acclaimed Veracruz musician Zenen Zeferino have released Rios de Norte y Sur.
A different take on son jarocho is the remarkable Fingertip Carnival, a collaboration between Chinese pipa (lute) maestra Wu Man and son jarocho ensemble Son de San Diego.
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has released the self-titled album Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. This groundbreaking all-female ensemble has served as a role model for Hispanic women in music. This is classic spirited mariachi at its best. The album includes a 44-page booklet with notes in English and Spanish.
The highly romantic boleros are very popular across the Spanish-speaking nations. A form of rootsy guitar-based bolero has developed in Mexico’s Costa Chica region bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Gary Nuñez & Plena Libre have been touring extensively with their explosive mix of Puerto Rican plen and bomba, salsa and jazz. Amores en el Camino (Love’s Journey) is their 2018 album. The album was originally scheduled for release in 2017, but it was moved to February 2018 due to Hurricane Maria and the subsequent disaster in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has released Yo soy la Tradición, his eleventh album. Yo soy la Tradición was commissioned by the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. It is a set of 8 chamber compositions for alto saxophone and string quartet that include Zenón and the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet.
Puerto Rican-Peruvian act Zemog El Gallo Bueno (Abraham Gómez-Delgado) has combined three of his releases on YoYouMeTú Volume 3. Zemog El Gallo Bueno makes an eclectic cocktail of sounds that includes cha cha ch, salsa, guaracha, rock, funk and electronics. The album will be available November 9, 2018.
Peruvian band Dengue Dengue Dengue has a new mini-LP titled Semillero released September 2018 by On The Corner Records. The 6-track recording includes a mix of electronic music with Afro-Peruvian coastal rhythms and healing chants from the Huni Kuin people of the Amazon River.
Galicia in northwestern Spain is a land of pipers, traditionally male. The trailblazing Susana Seivane is one of the finest bagpipe players of her generation. She has just released her fifth album titled Fa.
Also from Galicia is the grand folk orchestra called SondeSeu, an orchestra featuring folk music instruments such as zanfonas (hurdy gurdies), bagpipes, flutes, drums, fiddles and vocalists. The new album Beiralua features special guests on vocals and bagpipes.
Galician experimentalist and multi-instrumentalist Mercedes Peón reconstructs tradition with a mix of electronics, rock, traditional acoustic instruments, sampled sounds, and fascinating vocal experimentation on her new album titled Deixaas.
Argentine pianist Juan Carlos Cambas has been living in Galicia since 2002. He has released “Almas en el viento / Música Argentina de raíz“. Juan Carlos Csambos has been exploring the music of countries where large numbers of Galicians emigrated to: Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay.
Argentine tango and Portuguese fado come together on Tango Fado Duo (Sorel Classics). The album features Portuguese guitar virtuoso, Pedro H. da Silva and bandoneon maestro Daniel Binelli. Together, they delve into two of the most passionate musical genres in the Hispanic and Lusophone world.
American keyboardist Stu Mindeman collaborates with Chilean musicians on the exquisite Woven Threads, mixing jazz, Chilean music and global rhythms.
Folk music band Aljibe, from Central Spain, explores the music of the Rio Tajo (Tagus River) basin on Agua. The band presents reconstructed traditional music from Castile and other regions. The CD is housed in a beautifully-packaged hard cover 144-page book with vintage photos and lots of details about the songs selected.
Chano Dominguez started as a progressive rock keyboardist with Andalusian rock band Cai and has become one of the leading flamenco jazz pianists. His most recent album is a collaboration with Spanish jazz bassist Javier Colina: Chano & Colina (Sunnyside, 2018)
Colombian singer-songwriter Marta Gómez released La alegría y el canto (Aluna Music), an album featuring well-known musicians from South America, Cuba and Spain.
Brazilian music is the focus of Colombian singer-songwriter Chabuco’s 2018 album Encuentro. It’s a nicely-crafted encounter between the tropical music of Colombia and Brazilian music, featuring Brazilian musicians.
One of the hottest musical styles in New York’s Hispanic community was bugalú (boogaloo), a hybridization of Latin Caribbean music and African American influences. New York City-based band Spanglish Fly has renovated boogaloo and released Ay Que Boogaloo! (Chaco World Music) earlier this year. This time Spanglish Fly ventured beyond boogaloo, adding bolero, New Orleans funk, swing jazz, Arabic chants, and other innovations.
Los Texmaniacs plays the border music of Tejas (Texas), Tejano music. Their latest album Cruzando Borders (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2018) brings together Spanish, Mexican and American country music roots. Guest includes Lyle Lovett and country singer Rick Treviño.
Orquesta Akokán – Featuring José “Pepito” Gómez (Daptone Records) is an encounter between a big band collective of Havana’s finest musicians and musicians from New York’s Latin music scene with mouthwatering mambo as the common language.
Various string instrument masters appeared live at a festival in the Czech Republic and recorded Strunk Nad Oslavou – Strings over the Oslava River 2016 (Indies Scope, 2017). The lineup included Germán López, one of the finest timple (a small Spanish guitar from the Canary Islands) players in the Canary Islands, Spain; along with Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione; Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita; and Czech mandolin virtuoso Martin Krajíček.
Makrú, a band from the Mission District in San Francisco combines skillfully Colombian and Caribbean music, flamenco, rock, Middle Eastern flavors and much more on – Tu Mission (Makru Music, 2018)
Canadian flute virtuoso Ron Korb celebrates the music of Latin America and Spain on World Café, featuring Cuban and Canadian musicians with a mix of melodic jazz, tango, rumba flamenco and other influences.
Paraguayan harp player Carlos Reyes collaborates with Brazilian guitarist and vocalist Badi Assad and American blues guitarist on Blues & Latin, a combination of blues, smooth jazz and South American sounds.
Los Romeros: Royal Family of the Spanish Guitar by Walter Aaron Clark (University of Illinois Press, 2018) is an depth look at the leading Spanish guitar family in the United States, the Romeros. The family tradition was started by Spaniard Celedonio Romero who emigrated to the United States in the 1950s.
The Tumi Music label continues to release some of the finest artists from Cuba. This time it’s the pairing of two of the greatest guitar players in the Cuban traditional music scene: Eliades Ochoa and Alejandro Almenares. Eliades Ochoa Bustamante became worldwide famous as one of the stars of the Buena Vista Social Club. Alejandro Enis Almenares is lesser known outside of Cuba, although he’s an outstanding guitar player from Santiago de Cuba.
The two artists play instrumental versions of Cuban son (son cubano) and boleros composed by Alejandro Almenares and his father Angel Sanchez Almenares, who was a great “trovador.” It’s a set of exquisite guitar duos and solos with some accompaniment.
The musicians on Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana include Eliades Ochoa on guitar; Alejandro Almenares on requinto (soloist) and tres; Gabino Jardines on guitar; Enrique Diaz on acoustic bass; Alfondo Borges on percussion; Ren Dominguez on soprano saxophone; and Pedro Alarcón on violin.
Eliades Ochoa was born in a rural area, Songo La Maya, in 1946. When he turned 11 years old, Ochoa began to play in bars and houses of ill repute in Santiago de Cuba, out of necessity. Since he was so young, almost as big as his guitar, that attracted people’s affection and he was asked to play a guaracha whose title became Ochoa’s nickname, “El Cubanito” (the little Cuban boy).
In 1962 he started to work in radio, producing his own show, “Trinchera Agraria”, specialized in música guajira campesina (Cuban country music). In 1971 he left radio and started to play in the Casa de la Trova de Santiago together with Quinteto de la Trova and Septeto Típico Oriental. Things stayed that way until veteran group leader Roberto Echeverría left Cuarteto Patria in 1978. Elíades Ochoa joined the legendary group, which, until then, had not recorded any albums despite its popularity.
With the addition of Eliades Ochoa, Cuarteto Patria started its international career, playing since then in Europe, Mexico and even the United States. In addition, the music repertoire was expanded from the original bolero and criolla, Cuarteto Patria’s specialties, to include son montuno, guaracha and guajira. All of it perfectly integrated in a natural way by a group bent on preserving the best musical tradition in Cuba with an essential line-up: guitars, acoustic bass, percussion and well harmonized vocals.
In 1997 Eliades Ochoa participated in the Buena Vista Social Club project, that Ry Cooder produced, bringing together some of the best performers of Cuban son.
Although Eliades Ochoa announced his retirement as a trova singer in early 2001, the Cuban musician acknowledged in May of that year that he would continue singing his music throughout the world, after reconsidering that first decision. “It is difficult to give up the public who listens to my music, I appreciated that during my tour of South America.”
In December of 2008, Eliades Ochoa and other Cuban musicians met musicians from Mali at a Madrid studio. they recorded an album titled Afrocubism.
When Eliades Ochoa is not on tour you can find him chatting with his friends or signing autographs in his hometown, Santiago de Cuba, at the intersection of José María Heredia and San Pedro streets.
* A Una Coqueta, with Cuarteto Patria (1993)
* Lion Is Loose (Cubason, 1996)
* CubAfrica, with Manu Dibango (Mélodie, 1998)
* Sublime Illusión (Higher Octave, 1999)
* Chanchaneando (Para, 2000)
* Tribute To The Cuarteto Patria (Higher Octave World, 2000)
* Eliades Ochoa y El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2000)
* Cuidadito Compay Gallo (Egrem, 2001)
* Son De Oriente (Egrem, 2001)
* Estoy Como Nunca (Higher Octave World, 2002)
* Llega El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2002)
* Son De Santiago (Edenways, 2003)
* Ochoa y Segundo (Edenways, 2003)
* Se Soltó un León (Corason Records, 2006)
* La colección cubana: Eliades Ochoa (Nascente NSCD 114, 2006)
* Afrocubism (World circuit, 2010)
* Eliades Ochoa and Alma Latina – Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi Music, 2016)
Buena Vista Social Club member, guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa says, “Cuban music has a certain feel, that sway, that harmony. “It can get right to the heart and the soul, no matter who you are.”
Isn’t that the barest truth! And, for Cuban music fans the ripe riches are set to hit the streets May 2nd with the Tumi Music release of Guajira Mas Guajira. Teaming up the band Alma Latina and his sister, vocalist and collaborator Maria, Mr. Ochoa and bandmates delve into the country music of Cuba or música guajira. Of course Ms. Ochoa isn’t just a sister but comes with a prestigious musical background of her own playing with the likes of Ruben Gonzales, Sonera Edition, Tierra Caliente, Caribe Typical and El Grupo Achala, as well as touring with Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer and her brother.
Packed with dizzying array of guitars, sassy percussion, piano, congas, bongos, trumpet and saxophone, Guajira Mas Guajira will have Cuban music fans jumping up and down like a kid hopped up on Christmas, birthday cake and a passel of puppies.
Mr. Ochoa says of Guajira Mas Guajira, “Together with Buena Vista Social Club, this album is one the most important and interesting recordings of my life. “Alma Latina is an inspiration and an expression of art, music, painting and dance. It is a call to bring harmony and love through music to all human beings and Latin brothers. And it’s about the dance,” an element that runs through every charming track on the album.
Guajira Mas Guajira goes beyond the standard Buena Vista Social Club fair with sleek, often sizzling, guitar licks, charmed intimate vocals and a breezy Caribbean flair. Opening with the delicious “Brisa Mananera” with vocals by brother and sister, Guajira Mas Guajira proves swoon-worthy.
Moving through tracks like “Que Sigan Sonanando Las Campanas” with some lovely vocals by Mr. Ochoa, the raucously delightful “El Punto Cubano” and spirited “Me Voy Para Monte,” Cuban music fans get a real feel for the unrestrained joy of the guajira.
There’s also the smoothly sultry “Tu Aliento Me Hace Falta,” the infectiously jubilant “El Quichi Quicha” and delightful instrumental “Te Sigo Amando” to enthrall fans.
Mr. Ochoa notes, “No matter where Cuban music goes, it touches people.”
I have no doubt that where Guajira Mas Guajira goes it will charm Cuban music fans.
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