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Articles Illustration: Mayo Bous. Illustration: Mayo Bous.

A decade of documentaries on Cuban music

Writing about Cuban music is for me a task that must be carried out with great care. Not because of a question of choosing which genre, artist or theme the future reader may like the most, but because of the infinite possibilities that exist and the nature, very rarely simple, of the musicians and groups. Therefore, when thinking of a list of 10 essential documentaries on Cuban music, it is important to cover the broad musical spectrum of our Island.

The following selection is not intended to be definitive. It seeks, in the first place, to group films of sound and photographic quality made in the last 10 years; documentaries in which Cubanness is not lost — even if there are foreign productions — because the basis of our music is precisely that: its ability to reflect who we are. It does, however, have the intention of covering several genres, from son, danzón, chachachá or rumba to hip hop, rock, alternative and Afro-Cuban music, salsa and classical music in Cuba, without neglecting to the great Cuban composers, that not a few of us have had. A list that is well worth saving to later enjoy these days of quarantine.

Zeus backstage (2012) / Orlando Dominguez

Zeus leaves his own being on stage, gives everything to an audience that explodes with the first chords of Iván's guitar, while Dionisio manages to paralyze those who listen for a moment. This documentary does not go around the bush, it is the narration of a concert at Maxim Rock: the best way to show what one of the most iconic Cuban metal bands is made of.

Be reborn (2012) / Marta Sánchez and Raúl Isidrón

For me, Frank Fernández is proof that we Cubans can do anything. Many do not associate classical music with our Island and perhaps they have not had an encounter with its majestic piano. Be reborn He tells us about the training of the pianist and composer, about his passion for music and about his teachers. It is a life story and the driving force to learn more about this genre in Cuba.

There is a group that says... (2014) / Lourdes Prieto

Impossible not to include a documentary about the Icaic Sound Experimentation Group on this list. This group of young people, perhaps without knowing it at the time, completely changed the panorama of Cuban music. This film material not only tells us about the main figures that made up the group, but also shows us the society that created them, the fervor of those times from a perspective that does not seek judgment but simply opens a window to the past. .

Omar: Cuba (2015) / Lester Hamlet

Poster for the documentary Omara: Cuba, by Lester Hamlet.

documentary poster Omar: Cuba, by Lester Hamlet.

our girlfriend from feeling deserves a prominent place on any Cuban music list. Omara's life is presented to us through the testimony of those who knew her, admired her and worked with her. Pablo Milanés, Luis Carbonell, Chucho Valdés and Eusebio Leal are some of those who talk to us about what she does for Cuban culture.

Cuban key. Cuban popular dance music (episode 3) (2017) / Fena Della Maggiora

Traits of the Cuban idiosyncrasy are represented in their music and in the way we approach it. In this documentary we see Cuba through the greats of popular dance music: Juan Formell y Los Van Van, Irakere, NG La Banda and José Luis Cortés. The dialogue that is established with these artists explores the very basis of the emergence of this musical genre and is a tribute to all its precursors.

Chucho Valdés… The child inside (2018) / Angel Alderete Gomez.

Chucho Valdés is not only one of the great Cuban pianists but also represents the pinnacle of our jazz. He is, in my opinion, the origin and goal of every young jazz player on the Island. There is no way to tell the true story of our music without him. This documentary is a brief introduction to his work and its purest essence, through a dialogue with the maestro, as well as friends and musicians who have had the privilege of playing alongside him.

Cuba Underground (2018) / Juliette Touin

Photo: Taken from the page of the Icaic Youth Exhibition.

Photo: Taken from the page of the Icaic Youth Exhibition.

Urban art and each of the spheres it encompasses, from music and dress, to tattoos and culture skate in Cuba, meet in this film. It does not seek to judge the reality it portrays, but to show how rap and rock are expressed in a part of Cuban youth, how these genres are used as a form of expression, a kind of exorcism of the soul for many.

Brouwer: The origin of the shadow (2019) / Katherine T. Gavilán and Lisandra López Fabé

When approaching this documentary, the viewer must keep in mind that it will not follow the traditional guidelines of the genre. Perhaps because it is about the master Leo Brouwer, the directors did not seek to create a mere descriptive product but instead created a documentary with a high artistic value whose fundamental basis is images rather than words. Brouwer is an indisputable not only of our music but of our culture, and in this documentary he shows us in all his simplicity and privacy.

The last days of Benny More (2019) / Damian Perez Tellez

To say Benny is to say son, mambo and bolero; ie music. His figure, so controversial, has been treated on many occasions both in documentaries and in movies; however, this film not only presents us with the musician through the eyes of the interviewees, but also shows us archive images that are almost unknown to the public. The real jewel in the crown.

the great felove (2020) / Matt Dillon

The name of Francisco Fellove comes to me thanks to my father, in one of those conversations in which he tries to teach me everything he knows about Cuban music (a task that would take a lifetime), and months later I find this film that had its premiere last year. This film is, in itself, the history of Cuban music in the diaspora. Fellove is the center of the story, but it would be wrong to think that it is a documentary only about him: it is about racism in Cuba in the 40s and 50s, about the international admiration that Cuban music provokes. The origins and the impossibility of eliminating that deep connection we have with our country run like underground rivers throughout this work.

Laura Menendez de la Torre Philologist by training, with severe linguistic attacks. Enthusiastic reader of the postcards of February 14, which she always devours with a masarreal in hand. His fetish is people who make politically incorrect jokes. More posts

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