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2008 - week 52 , from 28 December - Music from cuba

PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:20 pm
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Sexteto Nacional - Siboney - The Music of Cuba 1909- 1951 - Cuba - Sony Legacy - COL 498709-2

2 - Trio Matamoros - Son de La Loma - CUBA: I Am Time, vol 2 - Cuba - Blue Jackal - Bjac 5012-2

3 - Benny More - Maracaibo Oriental ( with Perez Prado Orch) - The Best of Benny More - Cuba - Columbia - 486323-2

4 - Lecuona Cuban Boys - Tabu - The Music of Cuba 1909- 1951 - Cuba - Sony Legacy - COL 498709-2

5 - Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto - No Me Llores Mas - Dundunbanza - Cuba - Tumbao - TCD-043

6 - Mongo Santamaria - Watermelon Man - Skin on Skin - Cuba/USA - Rhino - R2 75689

7 - Rubén González - Tumbao - Introducing…Rubén González - Cuba - World Circuit - WCD 049


Marking the 50th Anniversary of Cuban independence: Cuban music from an eighty year span.

As in so many other countries, the music of modern, urban Cuba evolved from sources in the countryside, but Cuba was unusual in having several orchestras specifically set up to play the repertoire of a particular composer, often a non-playing member who did not travel with the band.

Sexteto Nacional

Reputedly the fourth professional sextet to be founded in Cuba, Sexteto Nacional was formed in 1927 by Ignacio Piñero who wrote much of the group’s repertoire, but not the world famous ‘Siboney’ (pronounced Sibonay), composed by Ernest Lecuona. The song’s melody made it one of the most performed songs over the next decade after American publisher Leo Feist acquired rights and procured many cover versions; over the years, the song was recorded by artists as diverse as Gracie Fields, Slim Gaillard and Connie Francis. Part of the charm of the original version is the surprising entry of the singer known as Carusito (Little Caruso) about half way through the performance. It sounds as if he suddenly steps up the mic to sing, having been unheard at the back of the room until that point.

Trio Matamoros

Trio Matamoros was founded in 1925 by Miguel Matamoros whose song ‘Son de la Loma’ celebrates the people who come from the hills and sing on the plains. In 1940, Matamoros introduced Guillermo Portobales as both singer and composer, and ifive years later the larger Conjunto Matamoros was on tour in Mexico with a new singer, Benny More, whose music became hugely popular in Spanish-speaking Central America several years before he matched that reputation back home in Cuba.
Benny More

Now universally acknowledged as the greatest Cuban singer of all time, Benny More made many of his best recordings with Perez Prado, the Cuban band leader based in Mexico for many years who developed his own distinctive version of Cuban music, known as Mambo, with a rich, fruity horn section to the fore. ‘Maracaibo Oriental’ has a typical Prado arrangement.

Lecuona Cuban Boys

Although the Lecuona Cuban Boys were designed as a showcase for the songs of Ernesto Lecuona, mentioned above, one of their most famous songs, ‘Tabu’ was actually written by his cousin Margarita (incorrectly identified as his sister in this broadcast, unfortunately perpetuating a common misconception) . Introduced to the world in this version made in Paris in 1928, ‘Tabu’ has been recorded many times since, eventually making the American pop chart in 1962 as ‘Taboo’ by the Hawaiian musician, Arthur Lyman

Arsenio Rodriguez

The blind singer and guitarist Arsenio Rodriguez was a constant member of the touring group which played his repertoire of songs, many of which are still widely played in Cuba, including ‘Mo Me Llores Mas’. The American guitarist Marc Ribot, best known for his association with Tom waits, recorded two albums in tribute to the music of Arsenio Rodriguez, both highly recommended, particularly the first, titled Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos.

Mongo Santamaria

After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, it became necessary for Cuban musicians to choose sides, to play exclusively in Cuba or to join the American mainstream music industry in New York. Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria (born in Havana in 1917) moved to New York where he became first choice Latin American percussionist for many artists and producers, while regularly making records under his own name too. In 1962, his version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ became a surprise top 10 hit for the tiny Battle label, featuring the demonic yelps of the Cuban singer La Lupe. When the specialist Latin dance label Fania started marketing his record under the generic title of Salsa Music, Mongo was vocal in dissociating himself from this banner. To him, what he played was Cuban music, no matter how politically inconvenient that might be. He resented being grouped together with musicians from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, as if they all played the same thing. For Mongo, the differences were more important than the apparent similarities.


The cultural and physical embargo imposed by successive American governments on any exchanges with Cuba made it very difficult for Cuban-based musicians to make a living, either at home or abroad. In 1996, the British record producer Nick Gold and the American guitarist Ry Cooder pooled their shared fascination with Cuban music of a bygone era, and with guidance and encouragement from the Cuban musician Juan de Marco Gonzalez, convened recording sessions which resulted in three albums credited respectively to Juan de Marco’s own group The Afro Cuban Allstars, a newly-minted concept dubbed The Buena Vista Social Club and the discovery of the sessions, pianist Ruben Gonzalez. The programme finishes with a standout track from Introducing Ruben Gonzalez, whose sudden emergence into the international spotlight was one of the greatest delights of the last years of the twentieth century.

isten again for 7 days via this link


PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:22 pm
by Charlie
emails from:

1. Isaac Bigsby Trogdon, Berlin

I quite enjoyed the cuban show today... so many songs that i never knew I knew - spectres from the early days of recorded music still present today... lovely. thx!


2. Andy Harrison, Liverpool

Thank you Charlie, I cried listening to your program 29/12. Songs I thought I'd made up in my head as child came flooding back. Thank You


3. suwanit downing, Melbourne, Australia

Love the music. It's magical, like we're discovering the lost treasure. Much appreciated.


4. Dave Only, Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Mr. Gillett's World Music from Sat 12-27 featuring Cuban Music was amazing!! Luckily I chanced upon the first track from 1928 and was hynotized for the whole program with the fluid, mesmerizing music from the acoustic - percussion laden music. Some of those tracks made me feel chills up my spine. I've heard of Charlie Gillett for many years and he certainly does have an eclectic ear and I am so glad he's allowed to mix his own!

He outdid himself with this Cuban mix and I'd like to buy some.


5. Nilson Medeiros, Fortaleza, Brazil

I listen to the BBC WS every 'overnight', via satellite, with headphones, while I'm sleeping. But last night, a big emotion, almost triggering a heart attack in me, when I woke up with 'Siboney', the first track of your programme about Cuba's music. That song, Siboney, used to be sung by my father while lullabying me 55 years ago. He died last February (Alz's) and, on his last months, weeks, he insisted on singing it on and on ... You can imagine what caused to me, lhearing Siboney again.


6. Barry Southers, West Chester, OHIO, USA

Hello Charlie,

I love your program! It is always a joy to listen to, especially this one.

The old Cuban music was haunting and magical.

Barry Southers

Re: emails

PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:18 am
by Charlie
Dave Only wrote: Luckily I chanced upon the first track from 1928 and was hynotized for the whole program with the fluid, mesmerizing music from the acoustic - percussion laden music. Some of those tracks made me feel chills up my spine. I've heard of Charlie Gillett for many years and he certainly does have an eclectic ear and I am so glad he's allowed to mix his own!

He outdid himself with this Cuban mix and I'd like to buy some.

I replied by email to Dave and suggested he look at this site, to which he replied in turn:


Hello Charlie!

How wonderful to speak to you directly, Bud. I just happened to catch your Cuban mix on late night BBC here on the East Coast USA and at first couldn't figure out exactly what it was.. at first hearing, I thought of African, but, soon heard Espanola.. and then it dawned on me. The tunes are haunting and sensual at the same time and such an original recordings from 50 to 80 years ago that Cuba finally came to mind.

I now MUST have a collection of this wonderful music and have, with your initial direction, found quite a variety of this original music. I have found also that many "newer" Cuban musicians don't quite have the original sound, although they heard them as youngsters and like to impress their Folks and Grandparents... but still don't quite have the sound of Miguel Matamoros, Beny More, or blind amazing guitarist & band leader Arsenio Rodriquez (I'm for sure getting his "Dundunbanza" album!!)

It's too damn bad that the Cuban musicians can't easily get up to NYC or other USA locations + Paris where they have HUGE followings... Thanks to Fidel ;(

What do you think of one of my favorite American guitarist, Ry Cooder, doing that Buena Vista Social Club Thing?? I love Ry for his down-home bijou slide guitar ++++ lots of projects. This Cuban thing got many positive and lots of negative reviews, but I'm not sure??? In your experienced opinion, Charlie, Wadda you think???

Please post this anywhere you please and look forward to your reply.

Dave from North Carolina

CG reply : as for Ry Cooder, it would be a churlish curmudgeon who would deny the amazing effect that he has had on the careers of both Ali Farka Toure and the many veterans in Buena Vista Social Club. For me, his touch is deft, his presence subtle and his judgment more or less flawless. Just listen to any of the albums made by others in the wake of Buena Vista, using the same Cuban musicians but without Ry. They sound plain and unimaginative by comparison.

Bravo Charlie - from a La Lupe crusader

PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:14 am
by tiscert
Dear Charlie,
thanks for the Cuba 50th anniversary special. What a shame we had less than 30 minutes of it. However the celebrations will last this whole year – so probably there’ll be another opportunity to dig into your Cuban vaults. Please next time if you want to make a killing amongst your (West) African listeners slip in just one ‘charanga’ number from the 50s by Rafael Lay’s ‘Orquesta Aragon’ (guess where Congolese musician Rochereau Tabu Lay got his stage name).
Thanks for mentioning La Lupe(my life-long obsession). I always try to chat touring Cuban musicians over here (Italy) about her; the younger kids know nothing about her (obviously), and the older ones are always a bit reluctant to dwell on her - and I don't insist especially when there's a minder around. Probably in the early sixties (when she left Cuba) it wasn’t easy reconciling such outrageous santeria-infused showmanship to the rigidities of scientific socialism. I guess the government didn’t know how to handle it then – so what’s the situation now. That’s one assignment for those heading to Cuba for hols this Xmas.
For those who don’t know who I’m talking about, watch her here: or read this from the Guardian: ... worldmusic
There’s a PBS biopic about her entitled ‘La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul’ (2007) by Ela Troyano.
Best wishes to you Charlie. Ciao