In Puerto Rico, the typical sound of Christmas is salsa, not sleigh bells. And on an island known for its holiday cheer, the success of Banco Popular’s annual Christmas album and television special is as predictable as the appearance of men sweating in Santa costumes to make children happy.
The TV special, filmed in both Puerto Rico and Cuba, airs Sunday, Dec. 6 on Puerto Rican stations.
The album features collaborations between Puerto Rican and Cuban artists on versions of well-known songs written by composers from both islands.
“Culturally, musically, historically Cuba and Puerto Rico are like two wings of one bird,” singer Pedro Capó says in a “making of” video of the special.
Capó, the grandson of famed Puerto Rican singer Bobby Capó who has emerged as Puerto Rico’s latest pop idol, teams with the lesser known Kristal Forondona on a sultry version of the classic “Quizás, Quizás” with a reggae vibe.
Banco Popular’s productions are typically conceived as a family affair, featuring artists of different ages and genres. And it works: It’s doubtful anyone will go running from the room when Cuba y Puerto Rico Son plays during Christmas dinner.
“I think it’s beautiful that we make this musical union to present all of these great songs to new generations,” says Capó.
Other standout tracks among many are Puerto Rican rock band Cultura Profetica’s gorgeous, brassy slow jam version of iconic Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez’s “Te Doy una Canción;” Cuban timba band Havana D’Primera and Puerto Rico’s Pirulo y la Tribu performing the Cuban classic “La Negra Tomasa;” and — talk about holiday cheer — salsa great Charlie Aponte of Gran Combo de Puerto Rico fame and Cuban Aymee Nuviola, who plays Celia Cruz on the recent Telemundo bio-series, take on “Cachita,” the Latin American standard by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez.
The album also features Cuban singer Diana Fuentes, who lives in Puerto Rico; Puerto Rican hip hop/funk band Misa E’ Gallo, Cuban great Pablo Milanés, and Puerto Rican balladeer Roy Brown, and others.
Cuba y Puerto Rico Son is available through digital outlets, as well as in a special book and CD set that can be ordered online. Proceeds support children’s education in Puerto Rico.