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2005 - 20 August - Natty Bo - bulletin

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:12 pm
by Charlie
Wearing a blue zoot suit with wide lapels and an open-necked shirt, Natty Bo looks as if he has just walked off the screen of a cinema showing Our Man in Havana, the film set in pre-Castro Cuba, in which he plays the fixer, the man with an answer to every problem, whether you need a fake passport or a doctor who’ll treat your gunshot wound without asking how it happened.

In his version of real life, Natty Bo is a DJ, singer, and leader of at least two bands, Ska Cubano and The Top Cats. Both bands play music with a ska beat, one featuring songs in Spanish and flavoured by Cuban and Colombian rhythms, the other in English and twinned with American R&B. After finishing tonight’s bout of Radio Ping Pong, Natty had less than thirty minutes to get to Victoria station and (I hope) catch the 10.00 pm train to Brighton, fifty miles away, where he was due onstage with the Top Cats soon after 11.00 pm. Although the programme followed the recent release of Ska Cubano’s second album ¡ Ay Caramba !, Natty’s vinyl selections were closer to the Top Cats’ repertoire.

It turns out Natty grew up in Thamesmead, a section of South East London not famous as a stimulus for adventurous musicians. But he didn’t need to go out of the house to find musical inspiration - his father’s record collection included Louis Jordan and Leadbelly. The concept of Ska Cubano’s blend of Jamaica, Cuban and Colombian rhythms is a vision shared with producer Peter Scott, who financed the recording sessions in Havana, where they put local musicians through a crash course in ska’s distinctive shuffle rhythm, which had never crossed the one hundred kilometre gap between Jamaica and Cuba during ska’s heyday in the 1960s. I wasn’t convinced by the first album, but like this one much better. It sounds like everybody is more confident and relaxed.

Of Natty’s choices, I particularly liked Bitty McLean’s ‘Only You’, impeccably integrated into an old Duke Reid backing track, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s uplifting ‘Didn’t It Rain’ – as Natty pointed out, she was not only a good gospel singer but a marvelous guitarist too.

Among my responses was the original version of Explainer’s ‘Lorraine’; last week I misleadingly suggested that this was on his new CD, but no, both versions of the song on Looking Back are new recordings. So we are still waiting for the original version to be released on CD.

One of the best-ever custom-made music scenes in a feature film is Caetano Veloso’s performance of ‘Cucurrucucú Paloma’ in a hotel lounge during Pedro Almodovar’s Hable Con Ella. Disappointingly, the soundtrack album had a different (although still very good) studio recording of the song. Alma de America, a new compilation of Latin American songs made famous in films, includes a version taken from Caetano’s 1995 live album. This has all the spine-tingling appeal that I remember from the film - does anybody know if it is the same one that was used in Hable Con Ella?

Caetano Veloso

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:35 pm
by neil foxlee
Re Caetano Veloso’s performance of ‘Cucurrucucú Paloma’ in Pedro Almodovar’s Hable Con Ella, it's my recollection that the scene took place in the open air, rather than in a hotel lounge, in which case it's unlikely to be the version from his 1995 live album.