It may be subtitled New Cuba Sound, but Havana Cultura demonstrates how the American economic blockade of Cuba still exerts an equivalent isolation on the island's musical development.
Compared with the rapid growth of crossover forms in places such as Africa and South America (North America and Europe, too), Cuban music is still dominated by traditional modes, judging by this double-album. This may be due to the central role played by pianist Roberto Fonseca in the newly-recorded sessions which make up the first disc, on which only the big, burring horn riffs and call-and-response vocal chants of the Fela Kuti cover "Roforofo Fight" offer counterpoint to the jazzy rumbas. The hip-hop influence is more evident on the second disc of recent tracks recorded prior to Gilles Peterson's visit: in the case of Free Hole Negro's "Listos Pa La Lucha", English phrases like "one-two", "what's up?" and "here we go!" have been imported and sprinkled among the Spanish raps. But it's the new crossovers that hold most appeal, particularly Wichy De Vedado's languid rumba-funk adaptation of "Caravan" for "La Perla Del Son", and the infectious mandolin-trill sample which drives Danay's "Individual".
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