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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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SpanishEnglishInterviews & Reviews - CD Review: A Toda Maquina

CD Review: A Toda Maquina by Maykel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor
Planet Records 2013

Review by Bill Tilford, All rights reserved

(Photo by Alejandro Azcuy)

Since a few of the hardest of the hard core Timba and Salsa fans frequently like to throw darts at each other, it is an absolutely delicious irony that the leader of one of today's best working Timba bands in Cuba, Maykel Blanco, chooses to call his group Salsa Mayor.  If more of the loudest partisans on both sides of those Timba/Salsa peleas would remember this little fact before opening fire, perhaps they would be less openly full of themselves when pontificating about the deep inner meanings of what are, in the end, primarily marketing terms for elements of both genres.  (We doubt it, but where there is life, there is hope.)  In any case, A Toda Maquina by Maykel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor is the perfect recording for those who missed out on groups like Los Van Van when they were at the height of their powers, or those who just miss what it was like, period.  In fact, a portion of Maykel's work can seem a little derivative of Van Van and Pupy (for example, compare Bembe on this recording to Van Van's De la Habana a Matanzas, and you'll get the picture -- not plagiarism really, but you can tell what he has been listening to in the past); however, he puts a larger brass section to even better use than Van Van, and there is enough originality and raw energy in his recordings as a body that it would be unfair to try to call him a LVV imitator.   Most importantly, his band has a swagger in its step that isn't always there anymore with some of the first wave of Timba stars.  MB sounds like it is having fun in an age where too many bands sound like they know that they are at work.  

This was recorded in Studio 3 of Radio Progreso, many of whose broadcasts from past decades were recorded by listeners and are prized by collectors since they frequently presented takes of songs that were a little different than the versions that made it to vinyl.  It will be interesting to see how many more of these projects come out of there. 

Timberos, this one's for you - A Toda Maquina rocks.  (Since we used the word "derivative" in a previous paragraph, let's give Maykel his due on one point - he was using "La Maquina de Cuba" well before everybody else was signing on to the Maquinasomethingorother bandwagon, and they are following him there, not vice versa.) In fact, if you haven't already bought it, go get the actual physical CD - it includes liner notes signed by Giraldo Piloto (Klimax). Just remember the name of his band when you get the urge to spout off about Timba vs. Salsa next time.  If they could, many musicians would avoid using any label at all but for the fact that they have to call it something in order to sell the recording...

Salseros, if you are new to Timba, this probably won't synch up with how most of you normally dance, but we would recommend it to you as an excellent musical introduction to Timba anyway. Much of it does not suffer from your most frequent complaint ("too fast"), it is well-orchestrated, and it doesn't have some of the fusion experiments that some of the other bands have been playing with in recent times. Move to this music however you are moved, and you may even develop the urge to learn how the Cubans move to it  (90% of that is learning how to relax rather than trying to nail certain kinds of maneuvres) before you finish. 

North American presenters:  you should take a serious look at this group. Its live performances are even more energetic than this recording.  

NEW:  A recent video interview of Maykel by our own Michelle White is now available in Spanish. Click here to watch.


Role - Instrument Name
Piano, Musical Director, Arranger, Gen. Producer Maykel Blanco Cuevas
Congas Jaime Cruz Bustillo
Guiro Alain Reboredo
Drums and Timbal José Lis Matos
Bass Alfonso Álvarez
Keyboards Maykel Blanco Cuevas, Victor Bell
Trumpets  Ahmed González, Adolfo Sierra
Trombones  Omar álvarez, Karell Medina
Vocalists  Yordis Larrazabal, Alexis David Zamora, Yasser Ramos, Maykel Blanco Cuevas
Coros  Yordis Larrazabal, Alexis David Zamora, Maykel Blanco Cuevas
Utilero Joel Ortega
Producers Angel Luis Alayo Negret, Mirtha Garcia Atienzar
Guest Artists Osvaldo Huerta (Bongo), Ailyn Dallera (vocals), Cristian y Rey Alonso (vocals), Norisley Valladares (vocals), Rmilio Rrias Peña (vocals)


Sunday, 11 August 2013, 12:56 PM