Six New Albums (and One Reissue) of Ageless Cuban Music

Juan de Marcos
Luiz C. Ribeiro

Juan de Marcos

Cuban veterans and young talents make the old new again. Here are seven summer-ready albums.

A new documentary about Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club is one more testimony to the ageless appeal of classic Cuban music. To capitalize on renewed interest the film could bring, World Circuit, the label that released the original 1997 Buena Vista album, is reissuing Introducing...Ruben González, the international solo debut of the Buena Vista pianist. It comes out on on vinyl and CD June 16.

González, who performed with cha-cha-cha creator Enrique Jorrín and the Afro-Cuban pioneer Arsenio Rodríguez in his early days, made a comeback with the Afro Cuban All Stars before being cast by Ry Cooder for Buena Vista. The All Stars, led by Buena Vista A&R man and musical director Juan de Marcos González, also have a notable new album out. Absolutely Live II – Viva Mexico finds the group in fantastic form, layering timeless big band son with the sound of contemporary Havana jazz.

It’s not only Buena Vista veterans who can be heard making the old new again. Here are five more summer-ready Cuban albums to listen to now.

Vocal Sampling, Así de Sampling

Vocal Sampling has been wowing crowds for a while with their incredible ability to mimic instruments with their voices and what they call their “visual parody” of musicians playing, in performances that are sheer joy to experience. The group’s latest album just won the 2017 Cubadisco prize for vocal and choral music. As always, Sampling has included some Cuban classics; “El Carretero,” “Dos Gardenias” and “Veinte Años,” all recorded by the Buena Vista social Club, are among the 14 tracks. And if you’ve always wanted to hear “Blowin’ in the Wind” sung in Cuban-accented English, now you can.

Dayme Arocena, Cubafonia

The infinite power of Afro-Cuban ritual drives the remarkable young Cuban singer Dayme Arocena’s latest, Cubafonia.  On this luscious Gilles Peterson-produced recording, Arocena not only represents rumba, she carries on Cuba’s longstanding love affair with jazz and funk.

Luis Bofill, Arsenio Essential

Singer Luis Bofill has the kind of voice that calls out for a good time. The Cuban native is a Miami nightlife institution known for his classic bolero stylings, lusty laugh and all-night-long enthusiasm. He reprises songs made famous by Arsenio Rodríguez on his latest sing-along, dance-ready solo album.

San Miguel, Un Poquito de Amor Everyday

The 32-year-old Cuban tres player San Miguel brings the infectious spirit and everyday lyrics of traditional Cuban son to music with pop appeal. On the title track of his solo debut, he performs a bilingual duet with Men at Work’s Colin Hay, who co-produced the new album.

William Borrego, Acerca del Oido

Seductive Cuban crooner William Borrego won Cubadisco 2017’s Traditional Cuban Music category with his album of beautifully-orchestrated old-school romantic tunes. The track list includes “Tu Me Sabes Comprender,” “Vida Consentida,” and the emblematic “Hoy Como Ayer” (“Today Like Yesterday”).