Album: Orishas

El Kilo, CAPITOL
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The Independent Culture

America's vindictive blockade of Cuba has in effect frozen the country's culture in aspic. Like its cars, most of the island's musical output seems to derive from the Fifties, being periodically spruced up to go 10,000 miles further. That's the impression given by the West's fascination with the Buena Vista Social Club, which suggests that only pensioners play music. Surely there are a few young performers not strangled by tradition? Such proves to be the case here, with Orishas utilising the global lingua franca of hip-hop to illuminate their situation, without abandoning their own cultural roots. Several of the Spanish-language tracks on El Kilo deal with finding the balance between identity and originality, and virtually all adapt infectious rumba rhythms into brassy, rolling breakbeat grooves that couldn't possibly have come from anywhere else. "Business isn't easy when there's little left to invent," the trio observe in "Naci Orishas"; "To find the melody you have to be natural/ Always sta

America's vindictive blockade of Cuba has in effect frozen the country's culture in aspic. Like its cars, most of the island's musical output seems to derive from the Fifties, being periodically spruced up to go 10,000 miles further. That's the impression given by the West's fascination with the Buena Vista Social Club, which suggests that only pensioners play music. Surely there are a few young performers not strangled by tradition? Such proves to be the case here, with Orishas utilising the global lingua franca of hip-hop to illuminate their situation, without abandoning their own cultural roots. Several of the Spanish-language tracks on El Kilo deal with finding the balance between identity and originality, and virtually all adapt infectious rumba rhythms into brassy, rolling breakbeat grooves that couldn't possibly have come from anywhere else. "Business isn't easy when there's little left to invent," the trio observe in "Naci Orishas"; "To find the melody you have to be natural/ Always start from far away and sing like the first." Yet they admit in the title track, "What I've got in music comes from long ago/ Neither stolen nor pirated, more than that/ It's inherited from another age." Other concerns offer a less than flattering portrait of Cuba, ranging from prostitution, corruption and homelessness to the pervasive disillusion of the young.

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