As U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba loom, the country’s rich musical influence shows no signs of waning, with an album and documentary celebrating Cuban sounds and artists slated for release this fall.
Produced by Dancing With the Stars musical director Ray Chew and his wife and business partner Vivian Scott Chew, Two Beats, One Soul (RVMK Records) will be released digitally on Sept. 22 (with a physical release to follow on October 13).
Recorded at Havana’s Abdala Studio with a cast of Cuban and American artists and producers, Two Beats, One Soul has tracks produced and written by Ray Chew himself, as well as Latin hitmaker Sergio George, freestyle and house pioneer Louie Vega, R&B singer Jon B., Cuban timba bandleader Manolito Simonet and musicians Ruben and Gabriel Rodriguez, Eric Benét, Josh Milan and others. Former Yerba Buena vocalist Xiomara Laugart, who moved to the U.S. in the Nineties and has portrayed Celia Cruz Off Broadway, also sings on the album.
A companion documentary film about the making of the album – due out in October – will give a taste of the country to U.S. viewers who might no longer be able to get there themselves.
President Obama’s 2015 rapprochement with Cuba’s Raul Castro led way to a moment when it seemed like every American producer, label executive and artist manager was getting a project going in Havana, or at least wished they were. Relaxed regulations made it easy for anyone to go to Cuba to scout artists, check out recording studios, or just take in a few shows at local clubs.
Pres. Trump was quick to try and pour water on that fire with regulations curtailing the kind of freewheeling trips by individuals to Cuba that could best allow for the improvisation, of which great recordings are often born. He announced in June he was putting the kibosh on weekends in Havana for individuals traveling on their own – rather than as part of a scheduled group trip traveling on a cultural exchange.
But those political maneuvers did not impact the making of the Chews’ album.