What better time than now, as the United States reconnects with this island nation after decades of isolation, to indulge in its colorful music scene. Deriving from Africa, Spain, the Caribbean and other points west, Cuban song is a medium of vibrancy and solemnity. Here are five artists making a name for themselves in the country.
Talk about a global citizen— this singer and rapper has foraged for food in France, worked as a chef in his native land and garnered multiple Grammy nominations. His name breaks down as Yo-tu-el, or me, you and him. His 2013 album, Suerte, fused breezy acoustic pop with frenetic dance numbers, ensuring a good time no matter what time of day one listened to it. He’s shared the stage with everyone from Manu Chao to the Deftones, demonstrating his cross-cultural appeal.
Consider these Santa Clara punks Rancid en Español. They’ve got the perfectly gritty sounding guitars, gang vocals and mighty melodies to get your heart racing and your circle pit churning. You’ve got to see for yourself why singer Pablo Javier Riverón is dubbed el pollo (‘the chicken”).
Daymé Arocena made a big splash at South by Southwest 2015 with her syncopated and spiritual performance, ripe with Santeria influence. She credits the saint of the sea, Yemaya, with filling her life with song and celebration. In that, her debut album, Nueva Era, indeed brought in a new era of sensual, otherworldly pop. Thanks to PRI for the suggestion.
Torch-pop at its finest. Fuentes has a bold voice that cozies up next to Celine Dion and other universal divas, minus the kitsch. In-your-face hits such as “Otra Realidad” are every bit a Bond theme, and she nails every inflection. If you like your Top 40 dramatic, Diana Fuentes is your next starlet. Cheers to Paper for the info.
Up for letting it all hang out and losing your mind on the dance floor? Cesar M from Havana is your guy. He’s ranked as the top DJ in Cuba right now, with his celestial, guttural house mixes. The Process EP is his latest, full of chaotic beauty and subwoofer madness. It sucks you into a realm between The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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