When reggae legends Sly & Robbie, Buena Vista Social Club laud player Barbarito Torres and other Cuban and Jamaican musicians convened to record an album over ten days in Havana, the studio walls spoke to Mista Savona.
“Chan Chan” is one of those classic songs that normally I would never attempt to cover,” the Australian reggae and dancehall producer says of the track, which led Compay Segundo and the rest of the Buena Vista artists to immortality. “However, the fact that I was standing in the very same studio in which it was recorded twenty years earlier made it an irresistible choice.”
The new version of “Chan Chan,” included on the upcoming album Havana Meets Kingston (coming Nov. 3 on VP Records/17 North Parade), respects rather than reinvents the original, backing the familiar Cuban son, with vocals by Havana soul man Félix Baloy and Robbie Shakespeare’s steady bass line. Pioneering Los Van Van drummer Changuito, the fantastic trumpeter Julio Padron and Jamaican guitarist Winston ‘Bopee’ Bowen are among the heavyweight personnel who also recorded together at the session in the Egrem studio.
“Compay Segundo is quoted as saying ‘I didn’t compose Chan Chan, I dreamt it,” says Mista Savon, who plays organ on the song. “So my arrangement is dreamlike, with elements of dub as the instruments slowly build…The album had to open with this track – it’s our nod of respect to the great Buena Vista group’s legacy.”
Listen to the Cuban-Jamaican version of “Chan Chan,” exclusively on Billboard.