Cuban revolutionary gems finally on U.S. free market

Bejan Siavoshy

Communist-inspired funk music may sound like some musical anomaly that will make for a better joke than a serious release, but “Si, Para Usted: The Funky Sounds of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. One” shatters any sense of skepticism as soon as the bongos hit your ear.

Each of the 17 tracks on the album exhibit the vast range of audible experiments that sprouted up during the heyday of a post-revolution Cuba. Although these records see-sawed between the epicenter and the outskirts of popular music during their time, the musicianship is nothing less than virtuoso level.

With each track having the right combination of solid instrumentalism and artistic bravado, no song is predictable or repetitive and they throw the thought of “boring” out the window.

The artist on the track that kicks off the compilation is legendary trombone player Juan Pablo Torres and Grupo Algo Nuevo’s “Son al Propulsion.” Starting off with a simple percussion piece, the drums are electrified by a thick layer of fuzz guitar and the fiery blasts of Torres’ trombone.

With no other track matching this sound or level of ferocity, “Son al Propulsion” isn’t the archetypal foreshadow of what the following songs on the album are going to sound like. It tells the listener simply to expect the unexpected.

This album is one of the most impressive and interesting compilations of Cuban music to hit the states in a long time. Since the U.S. has washed its hands of dealing with Cuba directly, American music companies and collectors weren’t dealing with Cuba’s only recording and distribution label at the time, the state-owned EGREM records.

Dan Zacks of Canada’s Waxing Deep radio show took the trip down to the island country and dug deep into EGREM records’ storehouse for the album, choosing to shine light on the forgotten greats of Cuban music.

You don’t need to hate capitalism, have a Che Guevara T-shirt or be obsessed with the Buena Vista Social Club to enjoy “Si, Para Usted.” Just check it out if you are into listening to good music.