God grows them and devil joins them
If there were a hidden, providential purpose in music, to connect audiences, tracing so many sterile demarcations, this would be one of his most successful pacts. It doesn't matter if the interpretation or the version surprises us more or less; The first thing perhaps is to appeal to our most instinctive and basic predisposition, and ask ourselves: what is this one doing singing with that one, if they seem to have nothing in common?
And therein lies the point. The everyday obviousness of artists —that is not always so obvious or so spontaneous— sometimes it is challenged by a conscious change of direction, either from a manager's office or from the artist's head with its fruitful whims. In search of experimentation, trying to leave comfort zones, to fulfill a dream that seemed impossible, or simply on the hunt for new listeners, these encounters sometimes occur and are recorded for history.
That is why today we propose this exercise, that of messing things up a bit and making some featurings musicals that would seem improbable, but that once again confirm the rules. Those that govern the soundtrack of a great theater of the world without a director, an organized chaos, a unique sound miracle, valuable as a rare pearl.
sun colored eyes / Silvio Rodriguez ft. 13TH Street
How exquisite and beautiful the union of Calle 13 with Silvio! Thanks to the masterful production of Eduardo Cabra, the former Visitor, and to the poetry of Residente and the Cuban troubadour, what they now call synergies were created, which crossed the borders of the Caribbean. the simple —included in the album multiviral (El Abyss, 2014) by the Puerto Rican band— It is still today one of those songs that make you fall in love. The clip that accompanies this song won the Grammy Award in 2015 in the category Best short version music video.
Perhaps / Omara Portuondo ft. Mary Bethany
They are two indisputable divas of Latin American song. What surprised us then, at the time, about this collaboration? Firstly, how rare it is, given the inbreeding of the music industry in Brazil, for an artist the size of Maria Bethania to accept a featuring with a foreigner —both 1 in favor of the Montuno Producciones team, which manages the career of the Cuban—. The second, that they chose for this lethal combination, a mixture of classics (Veinte años, Two gardenias, Guantanamera) with songs not so well known from our repertoire (both 2). Omara had already recorded this soft song by Juan Formell on her own, but how delicious it feels to hear Maria Bethania whisper in Spanish, with her Lusophone accent: “if you had talked to me, my love…”.
Lágrimas negras / Bebo Valdes ft. Diego El Cigala
Probably everyone has already assimilated it as a natural combination, but at the time producer Javier Limón seemed to have invented the most ambitious heresy: mixing the techniques of flamenco singing with the jazzed tumbaos of bolero and Cuban song. What few knew is that Tete Montoliu and a very young Mayte Martin had already tasted this concoction, in its delicious Free Boleros (K Cultural Industry, 1996). The album Lágrimas negras (54th Street Records / BMG Music Spain, 2003) was a success with the public and critics, winning a Latin Grammy, three Music Awards and three Platinum Records in Spain, an Ondas Award, five Friends Awards and chosen Best Album of the Year for New York Times. Too bad that, apparently, El Cigala's success went to his head and he hasn't managed to get his career back on track properly.
Death of love / Compay Segundo ft. charles aznavour
When this Spanish version of Charles Aznavour's legendary song was released in 1999, many were probably surprised. The union of the Ambassador of the song and Compay Segundo was, perhaps, unthinkable; however, here they are in this bolero version of a French song, reminding us that in music, as in life, nothing is impossible. In addition to Francisco Repilado, the French singer and composer is joined by another Cuban: Hugo Garzón, first voice of the Compay Segundo ensemble. The single was included in the albums Health Street (Nonesuch Records, 1999) and duets (Gasa, 2001), and it was the starting point for future collaborations between the French artist and other Cuban musicians.
Quimbara / Celia Cruz ft. Patti Labelle
In 1998, during a ceremony of the ALMA Awards, awards that have intermittently celebrated the work of outstanding Latino artists in the entertainment industry in the United States in the last three decades, a train collision occurred. Two legends of popular culture, Patti Labelle and Celia Cruz, joined forces to deliver an unrepeatable version of this mega hit. The interpretation is almost all Cuban, but the swing that the American puts on it is undeniable. If anyone doubts that soul and salsa are twinned, watch this video. A shot of joy guaranteed.
walls and doors / Carlos Varela ft. Dave Matthews
The harmony between two creators like Carlos Varela and Dave Matthews is easy to detect. Both have an acoustic vocation for rock and a passion for intimate poetry set in urban settings. But being virtually so far away and for so long, we never dreamed encounters like this were possible. So, when these rare sparks occur, there is no other choice but to give thanks to life.
Latin Simone (What's Up With You?) / Gorillaz ft. Ibrahim Ferrer
More than one Gorillaz fan has heard this song countless times without imagining that the voice that accompanies the English band is that of Ibrahim Ferrer, an iconic figure of son and a member of the Buena Vista Social Club in its best moments. This very powerful song incorporates the expressive voice of the old Cuban singer to the entire sound universe of Gorillaz, thus creating a timeless piece that continues to sound fresh. If you haven't been lucky enough to hear it before, "light up your life" with this unexpected collaboration.
dying of envy / C. Tangana ft. Elijah Ochoa
No one, absolutely no one would have imagined a couple of years ago that that boy with harsh gestures and marginal speech who came from the trap would end up becoming one of the most interesting artists on the globe. Without singing or tuning. Music in Spanish is the only label that can serve the work of Antón Álvarez Alfaro (aka C. Tangana) these days. An example of this is this collaboration with the legendary Cuban musician Eliades Ochoa. A song that borrows some verses from El Pescaílla dedicated to Lola Flores, which starts as a Catalan rumba, changes to trap and ends in a sonera apotheosis. Unclassifiable delight, like almost all that album called The Madrilenian (SonyMusic, 2021).
Of mountain and city / Liuba Maria Hevia ft. The Van Van
One of our editorial board members says that he is not surprised by this featuring because a part of Liuba María Hevia's song work has a sonera matrix and, in addition, the singer-songwriter has a long history of duets and guests. But don't tell us that someone was waiting for a collaboration like this one from 2019, in which one of Liuba's old songs, initially recorded on the album Coloring Hope (Duendes Music, 1993), is versioned in a salsa style, combining the voice of the then vanvanera Jenny, with that of the composer. Of the truly enjoyable things in life: listening to Los Van Van singing bucolic lyrics and moving your waist to the rhythm of the trova.
the winemaker / Failde Orchestra ft. Pamphilus Epiphanius
The famous chachachá by Richard Egüés takes on a new life here performed by the Failde and Pánfilo Orchestra, a character created by the actor and mathematician Luis Silva and popularized in the television program Live the story (an elderly man who criticizes, openly and through intelligent humor, the society in which he lives and survives, day by day). His in-tune interpretation, despite not being a singer, adds some more modern and realistic guides to the theme. MLC, MN, chocolate… do they ring a bell?
roman chitarra / Augusto Enriquez ft. Luciano Pavarotti and the RAI Symphony Orchestra
Augusto Enríquez has the merit of being the only Cuban who ever sang with the great Luciano Pavarotti. According to the former singer of the Moncada group, somehow the Italian tenor received his album Cannon (RCA, 2000) where he honored important Cuban composers, including Benny Moré, Pérez Prado, Tito Gómez, the Riverside Orchestra, Machito, and Vicentico Valdés. So, the lyrical singer invited him to the concert Pavarotti & Friends which in its 2002 edition was dedicated to Angola. On that stage, both sang an old Italian song adapted to danzón and mambo, which, some time later, would go around the world several times.
vital music / Good Faith, Omara Portuondo and Yomil & El Dany
During the first two minutes of this song nothing seems to surprise us. Another theme about Cuba and its virtues, another Buena Fe theme, this time with the always fabulous presence of Omara Portuondo, yes. However, when at 2:11 the three breaks and Yomil Hidalgo's voice is heard, several springs jump inside us. And it is that in 2017 nobody expected this featuring, taking into account the resentment that —even today— produces urban music in the environment of the Cuban music industry. Meeting Daniel Muñoz (aka El Dany) in this clip also stirs some nerves.
life changed me / Diana Fuentes ft. Zone People
We cannot deny that we were all surprised by the turnaround that Diana Fuentes' career took when this collaboration with Gente de Zona came to light. The Cuban singer, who had traveled mainly through the pop / rock scene, with Síntesis and as part of Carlos Varela's band and who had had her debut album by the hand of Eduardo Cabra (Visitante), suddenly and without prior notice embraced urban music and life literally changed him. The result was this very Caribbean convergence in the form of fresh and catchy reggaeton, which became a boom and was included on his album Libre (Sony Latin Music, 2017).
Loved / Yomil & El Dany ft. Amaury Perez
Bizarro was reading for the first time the name of Amaury Perez next to that of Yomil & El Dany at the moment this song came out. Loved it is a point of convergence of two representative figures from opposite ends of the Cuban sound spectrum. The lyrics are an adaptation of tune in love, a song composed by Amaury in 1995, and the arrangement was made by both parties. Although he manages to find common ground in the sonorities of both, what this song is most remembered for is the strange union it symbolized. For the rest, it reminds us of the melody of the central theme of the animated film The little Mermaid.
chichi / Elito Revé ft. Crazy Kola
The territories of Cuban popular dance music and reggaeton merge in this theme that sounded strong for a while; proof of this is that some of his phrases later passed into the daily lives of Cubans and their forms of expression. Perhaps today a combination of this type is not unheard of, but we are talking about the year 2010, when some musicians still did not dare to cross their own limits. As a curious fact, in the video you can see a young Emilio The boy Frías during his time with the Revé Orchestra.