Album Review: Gilles Peterson: Havana Cultura Anthology [Brownswood Recordings, 2nd December 2016]

This is the ‘anthology’ of modern Cuban music that embodies the diversity of a new generation of artists beyond the Buena Vista Social Club legacy. This is also the ‘anthology’ that embraces a good number of Afro-Caribbean rhythms – son, salsa, reggaeton, hip-hop, Latin jazz, among many others – linked with a global club culture where genres such as pop, rock, electronic, fusion trigger new styles. Havana Cultura Anthology holds a mine of precious jewels, young artists such as the trumpeter Julio Padrón, the singer and composer Danay Suarez, the pianist Roberto Fonseca, or the singer and painter Arema Arega, that all together enliven the sounds from the ambient street noise or DJ mixes, across refined salsa, sophisticated jazz piano, until rumba.

The curiosity of the DJ, broadcaster, producer, and compiler and Gilles Peterson has been rewarded over the last few years with a diversity of releases, from solos and remixes to jam and rumba sessions. Albums such as Havana Cultura: New Cuba Sound (2010) –that showcases a diversity of genres such as jazz, hip-hop, reggaeton, and many others–; Havana Cultura Remixed, Mala in Cuba or Havana Club Rumba Sessions – featuring the three main rumba rhythms: guaguancó, yambú, columbia–, and others are the main products of a collaborative project with Havana Club International. As part of the Havana Club, Havana Cultura was created as a window on contemporary Cuban culture and promotion of artists from music, visual arts, cinema, performing arts, to literature.

The pieces of the anthology were selected deliberately by G. Peterson from his eight year’s work with contemporary Cuban music (2008-16). The 23 tracks symbolise and celebrate the best output of musical research and experimentation with Cuba’s avant-garde music. Therefore, beyond a mere compilation of songs, the Havana Cultura Anthology represents the modernity of Cuban music, remixes of previous albums, and the context of a global club culture. The Anthology was released by the London-based independent record label Brownswood Recordings founded by Gilles Peterson in 2006.

The most recent release of the Anthology was in digital version, but has also been released on a double CD and a 3xLP vinyl-set for collectors.

Since the Anthology is a compilation of a diverse group of artists, genres, and styles, other musicians that can be heard are vocalists Daymé Arocena, Mayra Caridad Valdés, Mala, and Sexto Sentido; songwriters Francis del Rio, and Elain Morales; DJs Vince Vella and Kerkstra; rappers Silvito el Libre, Telmary Diaz, and Etian Brebaje Man; and the groups and bands Los Aldeanos, Ogguere, Chillum Trio (electronica & eclectic), and Havana Cultura Band. All the tracks and songs represent different faces of creativity, innovation and originality. Each is an evocation of the modern Cuban musical scene and global club culture.