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Cuba based rap duo, Zona Franka, blends traditional rhythms with the grit and swagger of hip-hop and rap vocal phrasings. Their clever shout choruses create instant tropical dance classics using their unique self-titled "changui con flow" style.

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Sunday, 13 November 2011, 04:42 AM

Timba's Funk and Progressive Cousins

Sergio Valdes y Elevense - Interactivo - Palo

A couple of weeks ago, we observed that the Latin GRAMMY awards didn't appear to being paying that much attention to Timba as a genre.  This is not so much a complaint about whom is getting recognized - there is some worthy music getting recognition - but rather that Timba doesn't seem to be registering on the radar.  For some reason, the regular GRAMMY awards have done a better job with this over the years with Los Van Van winning an award over a  decade ago and the nominations of Tiempo Libre more than once.  Unfortunately for many excellent bands around the world, the regular GRAMMY rules stipulate that the recording be a US release, and the genre is now a global one, so we still have a vacuum that needs to be addressed.

We observed that there is a case to be made for either creating a separate category for Timba (where does it really belong right now?  Salsa? Contemporary Tropical? Traditional Tropical? Urban?)  or combining it with some of its cousins for a new category.  Here are three bands - two from Cuba and one from the US - that don't quite fit the usual labels people try to apply to the music. 

First up is Sergio Valdes y Elevense, from Cuba, who were featured in some of the soundtrack of the recent film Juan de Los Muertos:

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Next is Interactivo,  one of the best and musically diverse bands in Cuba that many Americans aren't familiar with:

Finally, from Miami,  Florida, here's a fairly new video from Palo! : 


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So what is the point, you ask?   What do these have in common with each other or with Timba for that matter?  Two things:  1. This is all as "Latin" as it gets, but where does it all fit in the category structure of the Latin GRAMMY awards?  2. Like Timba, this  other music is underexposed in North American media markets. I'm not really sure that these bands belong in the same pot with Timba, but they are examples of an entire spectrum of the music that is intelligent, exciting, and relatively ignored compared to  more traditional and/or commercial recordings.  

The lack of media exposure is the more important issue of the two, and in the near future, we will begin an in-depth series on how Timba and other progressive Cuban music is received in the US,  how it is all treated by our media (especially radio), and how these things are all connected.    Stay tuned.  



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