Africa meets Cuba on this non-stop celebration of Afro-Latin dance music.¡Gózalo!
In the 1930s, a Cuban song called “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vender) became a world-wide hit reaching even into the heart of Africa. The ensuing global popularity of Latin music and dance styles like rumba, mambo and cha cha cha, which evolved into salsa, had a powerful effect on African music through the 1970s. One thing was clear in the process of Cuban music taking hold in Africa: Cuban music is African music, albeit with sprinklings of European and American influences mixed in. Listen to the percussion of rumba guaguancó or the complex drumming and Yoruba songs of Cuba’s santería ceremonies and you’ll recognize that fact.
More than 600,000 Africans were brought to Cuba during the course of the slave trade. While European ballroom dances and musical instruments provided the framework, African culture was the foundation for the development of Cuban popular music in the 20th century. When Africans listened to Cuban music, they were hearing their music. Even though the language was different, the trumpets, flutes and violins foreign, and the specific rhythms new, they recognized the echoes of their past and the familiarity of a shared history revealed in the songs and dances of the Caribbean.
Basically, Africans loved Cuban music and wanted to play it themselves. But, of course, they didn’t do it exactly the same way. Africans couldn’t speak Spanish, so they made up Spanish sounding words. They often replaced the brass and string parts with supple guitar lines and incorporated different rhythms that reflected their own local traditions. They transformed the sound and made it their own. By the 1960s and 70s, nightclubs throughout Africa featured local bands covering Cuban classics and popular salsa hits as well as developing styles such as mbalax and soukous.
Latin music was so popular in Africa that, when a 1974 concert featuring an array of international stars was organized in what was then Zaire, it wasn’t James Brown or B.B. King who filled the stadium but Cuba’s Celia Cruz and salsa star Johnny Pacheco who elicited the greatest response. And, when local favorites such as Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau, who were themselves deeply influenced by Cuban music, stepped on stage, the great cultural circle between Cuba and Africa was symbolically completed. That connection continues to this day. On this collection, you will hear some songs recorded over 40 years ago and others in the last few years. All reflect the long-standing love affair between Africans and Cuban music.