Most Americans have heard of Cuban music legends like salsa star Celia Cruz, classics powerhouse Buena Vista Social Club, and of course, favorite bandleader Desi Arnaz. Cuba’s tradition of producing extraordinary talent carries on today, and many of the island’s contemporary musicians are making waves across the globe. Here are some of their latest chart-topping tunes.
I took my first Rueda de Casino class in Mexico City in the summer of 2011. I signed up for it because it was the closest dance studio to my apartment, and I had no idea that Cuban salsa was different from New York salsa or the salsa that I had danced at small, crowded clubs in Central America and Peru. That fall, I spent the semester studying at the University of Havana. In Havana, I took private classes and tried to go out casino dancing as much as possible.
A music capital by any standard, Havana lives up its long, boisterous nights, just as it pulsates throughout its sunny, steamy days. There is salsa cubana, rumba and jazz, with long withstanding institutions entertaining since decades.
There is some debate over the exact origins of salsa, but many historians agree that this popular music and dance were born in Cuba. Salsa music is a mish-mash of Latin musical rhythms centered mostly on traditional Cuban son musicfrom the east. The high-energy music and accompanying dance gained its name in New York in the 1960s where son was fused with big band music and jazz, and Cubans and Puerto Ricans living in the big apple transformed the dance accordingly.
How does one go about planning a trip to Cuba based on meeting a centenarian? Let me tell you – no es fácil, as Cubans like to say. Chances are slim, and as it turned out in my case, nil. Two years after my first trip to Cuba, I was eager to make my way back to the Caribbean island, to witness the incredible winds of change as of late and to rub against the vibe of its people. But my end goal was to ultimately say hello to an old friend whom I’d met in Camagüey.
With rhythmic, steady steps, uninterrupted and in continuous circle, the dance initiating the long-lived traditional Fiestadel Kiribá y Nengón, alive since more than a century, reveals the primary cells of the Cuban son