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Monday, March 22, 2004
Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne has written an op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled "Songs of Cuba, Silenced in America." I like this point:

"In a profound way, our government takes on the role of oppressor when it tries to control which artists will be allowed access to our minds and our hearts. We may think we are isolating Cuba with our embargo and our travel restrictions, but it is we Americans who are becoming isolated. People travel to Cuba from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy and Spain — countries we consider staunch allies."

How absurd is it anyway, that something as harmless as music is all tangled up in some nasty election year politics? November seems a long ways away.

The Gata Loca remix has gotten some interesting reactions, most of them positive, but a few people have written me asking if this is a new direction for Mamborama. A DJ from Amsterdam said, "I much prefer the real Timba of the album... I hope you are not following in the footsteps of Manolín..."

Nothing has changed. The CD (original) version is still the "official" version, and is still how I would record it today. The remix is just for fun, and for DJs in clubs where they play lots of remixes of timba and salsa tunes. It was fun to do, a challenge both to try to reimagine the song, and to make it work technologically, because the original track was recorded without a click track, so it was quite a chore to get everything to line up.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Calling all DJs...

At the request of a few of my Italian DJ friends, I've just finished a dance re-mix of La gata loca, and am distributing it for FREE here at Here's where you go to download it. This is a promotional item, so feel free to make copies and pass them around, the more the merrier.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Locos por mi Habana...

...the sixth album from Manolito y su Trabuco is now in stores. I picked up a copy yesterday at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. The CD is on Cuba's Egrem label, as it seems that Canary Islands based Euro-Tropical Records is out of the Cuban music business now. What this means for fans is that Trabuco's CDs will be as hard to find as ever, because neither label has very good distribution, especially in the States. Nonetheless, expect to find it at and shortly.

The disc has ten new tunes, leading off with the title song, which has been a huge hit for Manolito. Aquí cada uno viene con lo suyo is an Ernesto Ramos tune that El Indio used to sing with Orquesta Aliamen back in his Santa Clara days. Manolito gave it a brand new arrangement, putting it into the trademark Trabuco dance groove.

En este juego is one of two songs Ricardo Amaray wrote for the album (he also co-wrote the title track with Manolito). This one has a great relaxed mid-tempo dance groove augmented by a wah-wah electric guitar that kind of lends a curious "Shaft" feel to it.

Diez años hands the mic back to El Indio, but I would bet money that this was one of the tunes that was intended for Carlos Calunga to sing. It just sounds like something that he would sing. Not that Indio is out of place, he sounds great. Calunga left the group while they were recording this album, but is still on the coros. Apparently, he was upset that there were only two songs for him to sing lead on.

Like so many great timba tunes, Donde te perdí starts off muy suave, almost, dare I say it, "romantica," but totally blows up two minutes in. Amaray is on lead again, and the arrangement is killer--contrapuntal mambos with simultaneous coro over a rocking Manolito tumbao.

El Indio sings Ella no está en na', a tune written by Danny Lozada and arranged by Manolito. I wonder if this is the same tune as Ella no quiere na' from Lozada's Mejor de mi corazón CD? Manolito really shows off his arranging chops here. A three part contrapuntal mambo, for one thing. Invitado Germán Velasco starts off playing two tenor sax tracks, which are answered eight bars later by the trombones. Then the trumpets come in playing a counter figure above all of it. Very cool.

The CD slows down with El amor todo lo puede, a balada written and sung by Amaray, with Germán again on soprano sax.

No te pases picks up the tempo with a funk groove that shifts back and forth from funk to salsa to funk again. Amaray sings it. Good tune--the hook will stay in your head after just one listen.

Encontré la forma is what I would guess is a Guaracha--it's in cha cha chá tempo, but not a cha cha. Very traditional, and Manolito makes full use of his Charanga style instrumentation which was augmented for the CD by two more violins (Dagoberto González and Yusef Diáz of Klimax [I didn't know he played violin...]) and another cello. Decidely not traditional is the wild double-time bebop mambo the horns play. Nifty.

The last tune, La Córdoba, goes totally traditional with a Danzón written and arranged by Miguel Armas "Pan con salsa." Although I love Danzón (check out Gonzalo Rubalcaba's Mi gran pasión--killer Danzón album), it sounds a bit out of place on a Trabuco album. I can't imagine them playing this one at the Casa De La Musica--they'd be pelted with empty beer cans. Nonetheless, it's very well done. Manolito has a really deep knowlege and respect for la musica tradicional, so I guess that's why he likes to record it from time to time, even if they don't get to play it on home town gigs.

All in all, another very good CD from the Trabuco guys.

Mamborama news and the world of Cuban music, accompanied by occasional self-indulgence.

Extensive Cuba trip report now online.

Here's an online scrapbook of photos of La Habana and some of the recording sessions for the new album.

August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / February 2005 / April 2005 / June 2005 / December 2005 / March 2006 / April 2006 /

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