Tremendo Delirio was the fourth and final CD from the modernised Charanga Habanera.
Prominent in a year of phenomenal Cuban musical output, it was the one in which everything came into focus. It was also of the period, reflected in this CD, in which they flew just too close to the sun. The cocky nouveau riche Timba bands both fed off and fuelled sex tourism. In their bid to rein this in, the government made an example of La Charanga Habanera.
La Charanga Habanera of 1997 hadn’t exactly appeared from nowhere but with the addition of Danny Lozada, this recording showed them in a new configuration. Grabbed from one of the unfairly ignored bands of the time, La Conexion Salsera, he wrote many of this CDs most enduring themes. He also features heavily on vocals, complementing the other standout, Michel Maza. To stand out in a band of this quality is something indeed.
The material is unique, from composition to arrangements to delivery. If the cover of Tremendo Delirio features a chap (Juan Carlos Gonzalez?) sporting a pink condom on his head, many lyrics deal with the harsher realities of sex and implicitly, life in contemporary Cuba. This is classic, era defining music from its most creative period. If you’re into Timba but doesn’t know this, you really need to put that right. Also included here is David Calzado’s “Lola, Lola” which will need no introduction to first generation Timberos.
Following the infamous August ‘97 televised gig during which the censor literally pulled the plug on them, the band received a six month suspension. In a short while it splintered. Only two of these fragments fleetingly achieved the musical greatness of the original band encapsulated in this album. David Calzado re-formed La Charanga Habanera as a narcissistic Cuban boy band and has successfully courted musical irrelevance ever since. Charanga Forever took the majority of the old band. They were able to develop the old sound for a while and produced several CD’s. There were moments on their first CD, in which they captured their old spirit. Somewhat overshadowed by Tremendo Delirio, this is nevertheless an excellent album.
Michel Maza, “El Menor De La Salsa” probably fared the worst. He appeared in the self-satisfied “Ases de la Timba” album, and released two CDs under his own name. Neither of these achieved more than putting a contemporary if much simplified spin on some of his old hits. Finding his way to Peru, perhaps the better to feed a self-destructive habit, he was jailed a few years ago for kidnapping a taxi driver at gunpoint. He spent a year or so behind bars before his conviction was quashed on grounds of unreliable evidence.
Danny Lozada took with him brilliant keyboard player Juan Carlos Gonzalez and released one classic CD “Tanto Le Pedí.” A musical genius, like Calzado, he subsequently also disappeared down the plughole of mediocrity. What a shame and a waste, but also, what a legacy they left us.