Salsa, Timba and Rumba are traditional and popular in Cuba but there's a whole other, Cuban alternative music scene that's worth learning about.
Photo: Karen Vierbuchen

New voices have recently joined the Cuban music scene; especially when it comes to the Cuban alternative music genre. Young art has been growing, nurturing and reflecting the island’s reality; presenting new ways of making and expressing music through the typical experimentation that involves the cultural mix that is Cuba.

Alternative music from recent generations has managed to make itself heard by voicing its fears, dreams, disagreements and passions. I introduce you then to some of these young musical champions that you shouldn’t miss.   

1. Ruido Blanco – Canciones para sombras

Cuban alternative music Ruido Blanco
Canciones para sombras Cover. Photo credit: Courtesy of the band. 

For those who are not familiar with the indie rock that is made in Cuba, Canciones para sombras may be the introductory way to approach it. The song appears in Sombra, the band’s recently released EP. The young ensemble of indie rock in Spanish delivers a text of tremendous lyrical force, full of symbols and accompanied by excellent musical work that invites us to a deep act of acceptance.     

Related Post: Don’t Miss These Singles From Ruido Blanco, the Cuban Indie Band

2. Isla Escarlata – Cerrar los ojos

Cuban alternative music Isla escarlata
Isla Escarlata’s members. Samuel Delgado (left) and Javier A. Sampedro (right). Photo credit: Courtesy of the band.

The duet, made up of Samuel Delgado and Javier A. Sampedro, has shown talent and the affection they have earned has been mainly evidenced by their winning of the popularity award at the Havana World Music festival. The band’s way of making urban music is original and fresh. Cerrar los ojos, the song I recommend to you by Isla Escarlata, is an alternative trap brilliantly mixed with elements of the Cuban traditional music, and expresses the classic concerns for the ecology and the authenticity of the artistic endeavor already present in Delgado’s lyrics.    

Related Post: I’m Literally in LOVE With This New Music From El Individuo: “Reacciona”

3. De Grises – Ya no soy aquel 

Cuban alternative music de grises
De Grises’ band members. From left to right: Alejandro Barroso, Efrey Mancina, Luis Ernesto Rodríguez and Robert Rodríguez. Photo credit: courtesy of the band

De Grises has won the Cuban rock audience over thanks to its characteristic explosion on stage and its fully energetic performances influenced by Latin American rock. Ya no soy aquel is an example of their powerful alternative rock, as well as an expression of a search for their own identity: an act of faith and a manifestation of character. 

4. Felixsandro – Camila 

Cuban alternative music Felixandro
                          Felixsandro. Photo credit: Felixsandro’s Facebook profile.

This young music producer and songwriter who  moves smoothly among a wide variety of musical genres presents us an excellent pop rock ballad with his song Camila. Both the lyrics that evoke tenderness and the musical work that builds an atmosphere that emulates the sweetness of the song’s theme, undoubtedly makes it an outstanding example of the new Cuban alternative music.   

Related Post: 5 Bands You Don’t Want To Miss on Your Next Trip to Havana

5. Fito del Río – Ícaro nocturno                                

Fito del Rio Ícaro nocturno
                                 Fito del Río in concert. Photo credit: Courtesy of the artist.

Trova is Cuba’s singer-songwriter par excellence and Fito del Río is one of its newest champions. Influenced by the Santa Clara’s Nueva Trova and by foreign genres such as blues, bossa nova and rock, he has been successful at mixing elements from these sounds to create an authentic style that enjoys both popularity and beauty; Ícaro nocturno is a love song that shows this young Cuban composer’s mastery of the poetic.  

6. Kábala featuring Kamankola – Respira

Mundo de Sofia
Respira Cover. Photo credit: Courtesy of the band.                                         

Kábala’s compositions have mixed Cuban colloquialisms with a strong influence from Latin American literature; each one of them constitutes a portrait of the social contemporaneity of the Island. Respira, the song I propose, is a collaboration with Kamankola, a well known Cuban rap and rock band. The video clip, directed by young filmmakers Raycel Rodríguez and Alejandro Perez Frenes, earned them a nomination to the best rock video of the year (2019) at the Lucas Awards, the top competition of its kind in Cuba. Respira is a rock song with visible elements of urban music; its lyrical composition masterly reflects the poetic daily life that surrounds us. 

7. El Mundo de Sofía – Boomerang

Mundo de Sofia
                                    El mundo de Sofía. Photo credit: The band

El Mundo de Sofía, a power trio led by vocalist and guitarist Sofía Guilarte, has seen a remarkable popularity growth in the last year, venturing into various spaces of the Latin American rock scene. This is an alternative rock ensemble that has  incorporated its members’ jazz influences and elements of the Cuban music;  Boomerang is a reflection of this. The song also shows the musicians’ virtuosity and excellent guitar work.   

You can find more of  these artists’ music on YouTube and streaming services.

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Alejandro Suárez Placeres is a fifth-year Philosophy student at the University of Havana. He is the cofounder and editor of Proyecto and Revista Creativa Manifiesto, an independent Cuban literary and art publication. He enjoys literary creation, especially poetry, short stories, and philosophical essays. Ale is also a lover of music as well as a film aficionado.

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