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Saturday, 06 December 2014, 08:50 AM

Amazing Weekend in Havana

Los Van Van & Buena Fe Give Free Concerts

Los Van Van @ La Escalinata de la Universidad de la Habana por Ivan Soca PascualPhoto courtesy of Ivan Soca Pascual

Havana has a wonderful tradition of free concerts at the end of the year. They are off to an early start this weekend with two free mega-concerts. The first took place last night on the Stairway of the University of Havana. To put it mildly, the concert was well-attended. Los Van Van closed their national tour with a free concert and also the official release of the new CD "La Fantasía".  If you're in Havana pick up a hard copy. It isn't up at digital retailers yet, but hopefully next week. Samuel has said that it's Van Van's best CD. It's too early for me to say, but it is definitely the best since "Chapeando", maybe even the best since "Llegó...Van Van". Without question it is going to be a favorite of dancers, so keep an eye out for it.

Una Luz Por La Esperanza - Buena Fe Tonight!

Buena Fe concert @ Carlos III y Boyeros

The other big free concert this weekend takes place tonight at Carlos III and Boyeros. Buena Fe are holding a concert in honor of the doctors fighting ebola in Africa. The show starts early at 7:00pm so families with young children can participate. Buena Fe is also working on a new album which should be out soon.

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Monday, 01 December 2014, 02:59 PM

Premios Lucas 2014

Ian Padrón Wins Big

Se bota a matar

The Premios Lucas (Lucas Awards) are Cuba's video awards. The past few years have seen an explosion of Cuban music on the Internet and the Premios Lucas have been an important part of this movement. The official website brings together and tracks the most popular videos in Cuba. It is an excellent source for those of us living outside Cuba to keep up with what is popular on the island. In addition, every year fans can vote for their favorite video as part of the Premios Lucas. The Premios Lucas also have an active Facebook page that you can "Like" in order to keep up on what is happening in Cuban video. This may help you understand how popular the premios Lucas are in Cuba: they sold out all 2500 tickets and set up big screen TVs outside the Karl Marx theater where about 1000 people went to watch the performances and the awards.

The ceremony included performances by Buena Fe & Havana Queens, David Blanco, Yuli y Havana C, El Niño y La Verdad, Charanga Latina, Haila, Osamu, Waldo Mendoza and Los Ángeles, among others. There were tributes to Juan Formell and Santiago Feliú and EGREM was presented with a special award for its 50 year anniversary. The show was closed by Alexander Abreu & Havana D'Primera performing "Me dicen Cuba", which was given a special recognition prize by the Premios Lucas.

The big winner last night was filmaker Ian Padrón and Buena Fe who won Best Production, Best Fusion Video and Best Video of the Year for the song "Se bota a matar" from the album "Dial". The video features the dancers from "Havana Queens, who also participated in the beautiful video "La culpla", also from "Dial".

Buena Fe feat. Havana Queens "Se bota a matar" from the CD "Dial"
Director Ián Padrón

The category closest to our hearts at Timba.com is "Popular Dance Music" and the winner was José Rojas for "Que no que no" by JG (you know him, his name is Juan Guillermo) from his last album "Que no me controlen".

JG "Que no, que no" from the album "Que no me controlen"
Director José Rojas

Other winners in dance categories include Alejandro Pérez and El Micha for Best Reggaeton for "Bla bla bla", Manuel Ortega and Los Ángeles won Most Popular Video for "Besando tu boca" and Joseph Ros and Sexto Sentido for "Brujas". Alejandro Pérez also won for Best Traditional and Folkloric Video and Best Photography with "Alcé mi voz" by Ivette Cepeda. Best Choreography went to Sadaise Arencibia who choreographed both the original Descemer Bueno & Gente D'Zona version of "Bailando" and the Enrique Iglesias version. For more about the Premios Lucas 2014 visit their website (in Spanish).

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Sunday, 30 November 2014, 05:06 AM


On Sale December 5th

Los Van Van - La Fantasia

At a press conference on November 29th, Samuel Formell announced that Los Van Van will release their tribute to Juan Formell - "La fantasía" - on Friday, December 5th at the final concert of their national tour, which will be held at the steps of the University of Havana. This will be only one day after the band celebrates its 45th anniversary.

The new CD - recorded at Estudios de 18 EGREM - contains 14 tracks with compositions and arrangements by Juan Formell, Samuel Formell, Juan Carlos Formell, Boris Luna, Jorge Leliebre, Pacho Chibás, Robertón, Mandy Cantero and Juan Ballestero. Alexander Abreu makes an appearance with a brilliant trumpet solo on track 14 - "Soy Van Van". Various DJs have posted short sections of some of the songs, and I am going to say that from what I have heard, I believe that "La fantasía" will be Van Van's strongest album since "Chapeando". Samuel has the daunting task of taking the helm of Cuba's most famous musical instituion, and all indications are that his father prepared him well by making him musical director several years ago. El tren va por buen camino. 

As we were discussing the new album via e-mail, Kevin made the following observations on the subject of remakes, of which "La fantasía" contains two.

Kevin Moore:
1) "Es mucho" is from vol. 5 - 1979 - I think I'm on firm ground in saying the vols 5 & 6 were by far the worst sounding Van Van albums but had some great songs that were unjustly debuted with bad recordings - thus, re-recording anything from those (especially "La rumba no está completa" and "El montuno" - which they've already done and which are two amazing tracks) is a great idea because now Van Van has world-class singing and infinitely better recording capabilities.

2) "Me basta con pensar" started as the B-side bolero of the early 70s single "Que se sepa" - neither of which ever got onto an official album - unless the version Omara did of the A-side with them did got onto one, but "Me basta" was turned into an uptempo arrangement in 1990 for Los Van Van - not by Formell, but by Pupy (this only happened twice and both were masterpieces in my opinion). That version of "Me basta" contains within it - among many other things - the seeds of Manolito y su Trabuco's whole harmonic sello - it sounds like late 90s Trabuco back when Manolito was still in Maravillas de Florida. It's a hugely important timba precursor and one of the best post-revolution tracks period in my opinion - no idea what the new one will be like, but it's definitely anything but a tired old song swept out of the closet for lack of creativity. I'm very curious to hear this whole album.

As are we all Kevin. The first thing I plan to do Friday morning is buy "La fantasía" from whichever on-line store uploads it first. I predict that it will be a great holiday gift for all the Cuban music fans on my list.

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Friday, 21 November 2014, 04:35 AM


Big Night for Descemer Bueno & Gente D'Zona

Congratulations are in order for Descemer Bueno, Alexander Delgado & Randy Malcom of Gente D'Zona, and Enrique Iglesias who won in three of the four categories for which they were nominated. "Bailando" won Best Urban Song, Best Urban Performance and the coveted Song of the Year. It's great to see Cuban musicians getting such international recognition. There is still a long way to go, since the original version of the song recorded and released in Cuba would probably not even have garnered a nomination (note: this is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of Timba.com). I hope to see renewed international interest in what is happening in Cuban music as well as a continuation of interational artists collaborating with Cuban musicians, as we have seen with Andy Montañez, Gilberto Santa Rosa and El Canario. Most recently Marc Anthony has released the official video of his version of Polo Montañez' "Flor Pálida" and collaborated with Cuban audiovisual producer Alejandro Pérez, who also produced the "Bailando" videos.

Billboard recently published a good interview with Descemer Bueno titled: "Meet Descemer Bueno, The Talent Behind Enrique Iglesias' Smash Hit 'Bailando'. 

The guys are currently touring Europe and were in their hotel in Paris when the winners were announced. Thanks to Joel Collazo for posting a video of Enrique, Descemer, Alexander and Randy and their reaction to the GRAMMYs.


Song for MauraBest Latin Jazz Album LATIN GRAMMYS 2014

Congratulations also to Paquito D'Rivera & Trio Corrente ("Song for Maura") for their tie with Chick Corea ("The Vigil") for Best Latin Jazz Album. I am not a GRAMMY historian so I don't know how often ties happen. Maybe Bill has more comments in this area.

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