Various Artists
Official Retrospective Of Cuban Music (4-CD set)
Tonga Productions (

In the Official Retrospective Of Cuban Music, ethnomusicologist Olavo Alén Rodríguez has compiled a superb introduction to the cultural and historical roots of what is arguably the most influential musical tradition of the Americas. Rodríguez, the founding director of the Center for the Investigation and Development of Cuban Music (CIDMUC), offers documentary field recordings of the folk traditions of everyday Cubans, recorded in their home communities in the 1980s, before the current commercial feeding frenzy. Most are little-known traditional artists whose immediacy in performance conveys the spirited, living eloquence of the West African and Iberian elements synthesized in Cuban music. Volume One explores Afro-Cuban music's spiritual, festive and secular realm, focusing on the Yoruba, Arará, Congo and Carabalí cabildos de nación or mutual-aid societies, the sacred and festive music of Santería, rumba forms, and the percussive street music of Cuban carnival. Volume Two covers the son and guaracha, recorded in Guantánamo, Pinar del Río, Santiago, Matanzas, Havana, Cienfuegos and the Isle of Youth. Volume Three turns to punto cubano and canción, highlighting the improvisatory décima form, the controversía, trova, habanera, guajira, bolero, filin, canción Afro and related upcountry genres. The final CD presents roots vocal and instrumental dance music from the pre-salsa era, including the contradanza, danza, danzón, cha cha chá and bolero-chá. The English-Spanish booklet offers exhaustive documentation, with many photos and a useful bibliography of Spanish-language scholarly sources. This is an indispensable resource for those who want to savor the roots of the single most influential musical tradition in the New World. - Michael Stone

You can hear many samples from this set at Tonga Records

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