While we’re all stuck at home, dreaming about the Caribbean and hosting solo dance parties in our living rooms (or is that just me?), musicians have been facing extreme challenges during this global crisis. The prospect of not being able to share music on a stage for the foreseeable future is devastating, both for musicians and for us, their faithful and appreciative fans. My time living in Cuba has taught me that out of necessity comes innovation, and I’ve been loving how artists have begun to find new ways to connect with their fans — thank goodness for the internet!
“The dreamy yet funky beat and the electronic synth bassline is just what I want to blast in my car with the windows down — as soon as I have somewhere to go again!”
Thanks to live-stream concerts (@tunturuntu_cuba), clever “cuarentena creativa” series (#enelgaoperococinando), and inspiring messages from respected musicians (Magazine AMPM + Residente), I’ve found that in many ways I feel closer to my favorite artists than ever. How cool is it to watch your favorite group perform an intimate acoustic concert from their bedroom? And how beautiful is it to finally have the time to really listen to everything that comes across your newsfeed?
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I’ve put together a short selection of tracks that I’ve been listening to from Puerto Rican and Cuban artists that have been released over the last few weeks. It is a small gesture of appreciation to thank and support the artists that have been adding so much light and positivity to my quarantine-life!
“’Gracias a todos los besos en todos los idiomas,’ he writes on his Instagram — this is the only 4-minute video of people making out that I would ever recommend you watch!”
🇵🇷 Plena Combativa: “El Tumbe”
This is the first single from the all-female group Plena Combativa out of Puerto Rico. “El Tumbe” is a protest song — a response to government corruption and rising levels of poverty there that the pandemic has only heightened. You can feel the strength and passion in the drumming and in their words, and I think it’s an incredibly powerful song to come to us at a moment when many of us feel inspired to fight for a world that we actually want to live in.
🇨🇺 Fundamento (Remix) – Edgaro PnJ, BJDC
Although he started in the world of Cuban hip hop as one half of the legendary group Doble Filo, Cuban producer Edgaro ‘Productor N Jefe’ has moved into the electronic scene in recent years. I love this new remix he just put out with BJDC (Bjoyce + David Casas). It’s hard to go wrong with electronic beats plus live percussion, especially when the rhythms are coming from the masterful hands of Pedrito Martínez.
🇨🇺 La Reyna and La Real – Soy Ellas
La Reyna and La Real just dropped a new album, Mírame, with the help of one of Cuba’s finest young pianists, Jorge Luis Lagarza. “Soy Ellas” stands out to me on this album with its nod to afrobeats, and it’s by far my favorite track. La Real’s singing voice is powerful, and I was happy to hear her steer a bit away from rap and explore this expression a bit more. The dreamy yet funky beat and the electronic synth bassline is just what I want to blast in my car with the windows down — as soon as I have somewhere to go again!
🇵🇷 Buscabulla – Vámono
Although indie dream-pop is admittedly not my go-to musical choice, if I am going to indulge, Buscabulla is definitely the way to go. I like this song in particular because it is about resistance — a shout-out to the political turmoil in Puerto Rico post-hurricane Maria, plus they won me over with that drumming! Although this particular track came out late last year, the full length album just dropped last week and it’s pretty dreamy.
🇨🇺 Al Asedio – Elephanto, El Individuo and JD Asere
While I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me personally that I am the #1 fan of El Individuo, this post is actually not about him! “Al Asedio” is the newest song from El Espacio, an independent studio in Havana that has just recently begun pushing out some high-quality underground hip hop. The track was produced by JD Asere, who at only 20 years old has already established himself as one of the most promising producers on the island (he made the beat for El Individuo’s classic track “Baila” when he was just 15 years old!) . “Al Asedio” also introduces us to Elephanto, an up-and-coming rapper from Centro Havana with intelligent lyrics and a sophisticated flow, and I’m super psyched to hear more from him!
🇵🇷Residente – Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe
Instead of going back to normal, let’s start again. | No volvamos a la normalidad, mejor comencemos de nuevo. That’s the opening message on Residente’s newest quarantine production, “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe.” Residente is one of my favorite artists to follow on social media, and that’s because he’s real, he’s smart, and even though he’s a massive star, he still puts out content that I find to be authentic. He has been making these incredible quarantine mashup videos (that he is directing, producing AND editing himself, no big deal), and this newest one features over 100 kisses from around the world. “Gracias a todos los besos en todos los idiomas,” he writes on his Instagram — this is the only 4-minute video of people making out that I would ever recommend you watch!
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🇨🇺Joao Del Monte – To Loco
Joao Del Monte, as he is now called, has been experimenting with different sounds over the years. I’ve seen him perform many times in Havana, usually stealing the show singing alongside Wichy de Vedado at one of HAPE’s tropical raves, and I’ve also seen him in the studio with Guámpara Music and Gilles Peterson recording Carambuko, my favorite track off of the Súbelo Cuba album from 2018. I say this to anyone who’ll listen, but it’s because I really believe it: Joao is a star. “To Loco” is one of two tracks he released at the end of March from Spain, where he is currently living out the quarantine. I’m excited about this track because I think its the beginning of a new solo journey for Joao, and I’m definitely keeping an eye on him to see what happens next!
🇨🇺Kamerum Cuba – Babaluayé
Kamerum has always stood out to me musically because there are few Cubans that mix these genres quite the way that Kamerum does. The six tracks from the EP are diverse and take you everywhere from Afro-Cuban to electronic dance music to straight-up dancehall. My favorite tracks are the first two: Babaluayé and Sazonao. The Pimienta Negra EP came to us out of Minnesota, where he studied production for the last few years, after having the opportunity to participate in the US State Department’s One Beat Cultural Exchange in 2016. It’s clear that he’s been working hard on his craft.
🇨🇺 DJ Lápiz – Levántate
I’m not sure I’d believe you if you said you didn’t like, or at least appreciate, reggae. I love how universal this genre is, and it definitely brings a certain amount of joy to my life. DJ Lápiz is classic reggae-en-español, and he’s been busy this quarantine. His newest track is everything you want from a reggae joint — a groovy beat, melodic vocals, and a message of positivity.
🇨🇺 Héctor Guerra ft El Dusty & Kumar Sublevao-Beat – No Va
A Cubatón-meets-Cumbia track with socially conscious lyrics promoting tolerance? Doesn’t sound real, but it is and I’m into it! The highlight of this track for me is Kumar Sublevao-beat, one of my absolute favorite Cuban artists and musical chameleons. Although he has most recently been performing under the moniker Afrosideral (check out this beautiful video for the song Filhos do Mar), “No Va” is a great example of Kumar Sublevao-beat, the rapper. The production on this track is by El Dusty, a nu-cumbia pioneer from Texas, and it’s perfect for indulging in my guilty-pleasure love of Cubatón!
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