By 1997, Cuba was hungry and tourists were beginning to arrive in numbers which made for a troubling social dynamic. This found expression in a prolific output of ground breaking music, much of which chronicled this situation directly. Of the multitude of albums released that year, these three need no introduction to anyone who was there. More than classics, they define the era. If you’ve never heard these albums, or you want to refresh your memory, follow the links below to check out samples-
Te Pone La Cabeza Mala-Los Van Van
Pioneers of Songo, Los Van Van began the 1990’s very much in the style of the previous decade with their double LP release, “Aquí El Que Baila Gana.” Their Songo, which varied from fairly terrible pop music to the brilliance of songs like Mis Dudas and Eso Está Bueno, had helped pave the way for Timba but it was not to endure in its present form. Band leader Juan Formell would embrace the changes, however, and reinvent his band to ride the new wave. Along with most of the frontline, pailero Changuito left early in the decade, freeing a seat for Formell’s son, Samuel. Te Pone La Cabeza Mala shows the new Van Van at their apogee, in three distinct styles.
Tremendo Delirio-David Calzado y La Charanga Habanera
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 Conexión 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 CD cover 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.
De Buena Fe-manolín, El Médico De La Salsa
All three of Manolín’s ‘90’s albums are classics and chart the development of Timba through the decade. If for any reason you have to choose, De Buena Fe is, in the Matrix sense, the ONE. Never to be repeated or even approximated, this is one of the Holy Grails of Timba and another of the “wave of ’97.” De Buena Fe is timeless.
Don’t let the Star Wars opener disconcert you. Bear with it, it does go somewhere and you’re probably in for a treat. There are so many classics here, the occasional drab song is bearable. This digital edition is one short of the original, but you’ll probably miss nothing. The long version of Que Le Llegue Mi Mano has been cut, which means there’s one less song to interrupt your dancing. See how see how we look after you?