Gilles Peterson has just released Havana Cultura Mix – The Soundclash!, the latest edition to the series. Our newest blogger Perla headed down to an intimate gig with the man himself to see what was special about this Caribbean infused album.
Gilles is a man with his finger on the pulse: his fine tuned ear has taken him around the world to uncover top new talent and he is famous for constantly providing appetising musical selections that never disappoint. My personal fandom has taken me to his Worldwide festival on several occasions. With Gilles, you know you will always be introduced to something new – new artists, cultures and styles -blended seamlessly together, and you know that it will always work; it will always be exciting. This album is no exception. It’s bloody great.
The Havana Cultura collaboration was sparked back in 2009 with the mission to promote Havana’s diverse and rich contemporary music through international musical exchanges. This new instalment brings something completely different, it comes with a twist: a “cultura mix”. Gilles has mixed it up, literally. Exceptional homegrown Cuban talent is brought together with the best in emerging electronic artists from around the world, (9 different countries to be precise) creating a totally unique sound on every track.
To find these producers, Gilles held a remix competition, opening it up to anyone, anywhere. “You can be an expert at this, or you can be someone who is doing it for the first time… it is all about ideas”. Brave man. He opened the door to thousands of applicants. He chose the 10 best to fly with him to Cuba and record an album in just 10 days. For most of these producers blending traditional Cuba with their electronic music styles also meant their first time in a live studio and with live musicians, away from their laptops. It is this excitement and collaborative spirit, which gives the album its fresh flavour. As Chillum Trio, one of the winners put it, “We all work in digital environments, all digital, all in bits and then we travelled back in time here to the age of the analogue…It’s so real, it’s so human”.
Whilst the album stays true to musical styles at the heart of Cuban culture, with Ramba, Salsa and Reggaeton, forming the basis throughout, no two tracks on the album are alike. This not only reflects on the variety of raw Cuban talent but also the unique skills that each producer brings, providing a rare spotlight for both. My favourites, Kerkstra from the Netherlands, featuring Sexto Sentido combines soft, soulful harmonies with the streets of Cuba: bongos forming the catchy beat throughout. Both DJ MonoKey from Germany feat. Barbaro and Teipah, from Chile, feat. El B add rap to the equation and Rukaiya Russell, from the UK, feat. Los Niches & Charly Mucha Rima provides an upbeat carnival tune. But I love them all, and there is something for everyone, including tastes of Dubstep, House, Trip hop, Jazz, Brass, Percussions, Vocals and much more.
Something completely new and magical has been formed, trans-atlantic musical relationships have been built and the joy that comes from sharing a passion can be heard. Want the recipe for a delectable new Cuban cocktail with a twist? Mix the unique tastes of 10 emerging electronic producers from 9 countries and combine with the flavours of some of the best from Cuba’s music scene. Call it ‘Havana Cultura Mix – The Soundclash!’ and drink it up, the result is divine.
Words by Perla.
Photo credit Fabrice Bourgelle.