El Charanguero Mayor was the first release of David
Calzado’s rebuilt Charanga Habanera. It’s also, in my view, the last outing of the La Charanga Habanera as a Timba band. What a way to go!
With hindsight, I can see traces in this album of what was to come but at the time it gave no cause for concern. Any references in this material, if any, to the less than idyllic urban Cuban life and social problems are well hidden from me. I wonder what effect the suspension and break up of the band had on the musical direction he and others took. All the same, if the lyrics avoid social commentary and some tunes are melodically trite, much of the music is intense and absorbing. Riki Ricón particularly, is indelibly connected with the coalescence of a Timba scene in London around La Casa Cubana. It also reminds of cycling back to east London from Heathrow import customs with a big rucksack of on my back stuffed with boxes of CD’s freshly arrived from La Habana. Such was the heyday of TimbaMerchant in the early 2000’s.
Señora is another favourite from the Casa Cubana days. It’s in the tradition of songs with corny intros that you learn to love, knowing they lead to something else. There’s more. In an opposite vein, with its almost imperceptible chord shifts and lack of melody, Pa’ Lo Que Importa A Mi is a masterpiece of relentless insistence. Bla, Bla, Bla is similar, pure Timba Brava. Ligher tunes like Cristobalina also earn their place. it’s a good all round mix though the excursions into pseudo-Reggae are cringy.