For a long time, electronic music has been understood in terms of sounds rooted in particular places: the styles of house and techno inextricably wedded to Detroit, or the early ‘90s jungle sound which carries echoes of London. But that’s something which is changing – in Latin America more than anywhere else. A new project, led by Gilles Peterson and rum maker Havana Club (that created the Havana Cultura platform in 2007 to promote the island’s contemporary culture), shines a light on Cuba’s fast-mutating, rhythmically-adventurous underground. It’s a scene where old ideas are transplanted into new contexts, and like-minded scenes are brought together in new dialogues.
Havana Cultura: ¡Súbelo, Cuba! showcases an extended network of like-minded, forward-thinking musicians driving Cuba’s music forward. Following repeated trips to connect with venues, collectives and DJs, Peterson and Will LV – one half of LV, who’ve released on Hyperdub and Keysound amongst others – linked up with DJ Jigüe, a much-respected producer and DJ, whose Guámpara label has charted new directions for Cuban music. He’s been profiled by The Fader and Vice, and the album features his extended network of collaborators, connecting Afro-Cuban traditions with contemporary movements and ideas.
It was recorded across two weeks in Havana in early 2018. It features Yissy García, an internationally-lauded drummer who leads the band Bandancha (and is the daughter of Bernardo García, one of the founders of legendary group Irakere); Yasek Manzano, a trumpet player schooled at New York’s prestigious Julliard music school, who’s collaborated with the likes of DJoy de Cuba and Wichy de Vedado; El Individuo, an MC who’s part of Havana’s Con100cia collective; Negro WadPro, a percussionist / producer who, as well as producing his own beats, is a regular at different Havana nightspots; Kamerum, whose music – produced for his peers in Guámpara as well as his own tracks – bridges the Caribbean with America; and finally, Sigrid, a musician and vocalist who blends neo-soul with Cuban touchstones like son and filin.
The album speaks to the unique circumstances shaping music-making in Cuba, combining traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms with influences ranging from hip-hop, to kuduro, UK funky and the Caribbean’s ubiquitous dembow beat. More than before, it’s possible for Cubans to access the outside world – either on El Paquete (an informal, weekly delivery of TV, music and film to recipients across the island), or through hourly-pass internet connections accessed in public squares. It’s stoked the already-saturated noise of Havana’s sound-drenched cityscape.
Havana Cultura:¡Súbelo, Cuba! is a product of that environment and could be described as Afro-Cuban traditions inflected through a bigger frame of reference. It’s an approach which Jigüe defines as Afro-futurist-tropicalia, a term which nods to the balance underpinning his Guámpara collective. Holding their Cuban upbringings, laced with African-influenced rhythms, close to their chest, it’s a base from which to interweave myriad influences from elsewhere.
These past few years, Cuba has seen a growing appreciation for less familiar sounds. A case in point is a one-off party during the time which Will LV, Jigüe and Peterson were making the album. Recalling how an exclusively Afrobeats set had emptied the dancefloor in Brussels a few weeks previously, Will LV remembers the electric response it had in Havana. It’s a prime example of how like-minded, distinct sounds are being successfully brought together.
The album provides a snapshot of a unique club culture that’s fast evolving. On the one hand, it’s indebted to Cuba’s unique characteristics, where regularly-practised traditions are coloured by intermittently-experienced cultures from outside. On the other, it’s part of a global shift toward de-centred club music, with homegrown, influence-grabbing dance cultures tilting attention from club culture’s traditional epicentres. It offers a new side to Havana that’s firmly rooted in its past.
PURCHASE THE ALBUM ON BANDCAMP
01 Enciéndelo (Feat. DJ Jigüe & Yissy García)
02 Compañeros tropicales (Feat. DJ Jigüe)
03 Bomba (Feat. El Individuo)
04 Diáspora (Feat. Negro WadPro)
05 Ciclo de la vida (Feat. Luz de Cuba & Kamerum)
06 Traketeo (Feat. Luz de Cuba)
07 Carambuko (Feat. Joao PGlagarto)
08 Soy libre (Feat. El Individuo)
09 Number One (Feat. Niño Fony)
10 Encontrándome (Feat. Sigrid)
11 Blues de mi barrio (Feat. Yasek Manzano)
12 Eshu (Feat. Kamerum)
13 Hasta pronto (Feat. DJ Jigüe & Yissy García)