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Playlists Illustration: Juan Carlos Polo. Illustration: Juan Carlos Polo.

Driver, stop...

September began: the return to the classroom, to work, the coming and going of people in the big city. Gone are the summer days when you could choose whether or not to leave the house; whether to stay on the sofa watching your favorite series while waiting for a blackout, or embark on the adventure of urban transport, with crowded stops, ghost buses, sky-high taxi prices, and the always stifling Caribbean sun. Now it's time to return to the game, an increasingly dangerous one where reaching the final destination can take too long. —Because, lately, who hasn't spent more than two hours, even four, trying to “catch something”?

2020 is the new 90, they say out there. So the inventiveness of the Cuban, who has already been through this, is back. The bicycles are back, the great walks that also contribute to losing the extra pounds; instead of camels we have the articulated Ps and the so-called gazelles (with their massive tails); while some —the less shy— start in the always risky act of “asking for a bottle”; and others try to save a little more to buy their electric motorcycle and contribute to their profusion in the city.

In any case, in this century as in the previous one, public transport continues to be a pending issue for government management. While people suffer and live daily, Cuban music, always a chronicler of its time, has given an account of these experiences, injecting a touch of flavor to the anecdotes and misadventures of those who are forced to depend on these precarious services for their mobility. With the shout from the last crack of P5, we will get off listening to music at this stop, although a crowd between us and the door tries to prevent it. 

Cabbie / Descemer Bueno ft. Kelvis Ochoa 

Part of the original soundtrack 7 days in Havana (that failed attempt to Paris, je t'aime tropical), this son is a classic collaboration between Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa, two of our most gifted composers and responsible for updating Cuban popular music for new generations. A typical love song set by the topics of the almendrón taxi driver and the notes of the trumpet and the tres, with that characteristic tropical air that these two artists know how to breathe into their songs so well.

take it as it burns / Telmary ft. The Ruzzo 

for your album Arará Force (Colibrí, 2018), Telmary took up this song from Free Hole Negro, lowering the cannabis references and updating the lyrics and focusing on the “almendrón”, those American cars from the fifties that, with their collective taxi function, are an entire institution of Cuban transport. Against the most unthinkable forecasts of Chevrolet engineers, those behemoths are still rolling through the streets of our country, and are an essential part of the visual and sound landscape of the Island. The addition of El Ruzzo singing here is a delight that is always appreciated .

In guarandinga throughout Cuba / Rita del Prado ft. Karma Duo 

Song from the album of the same name, one of the most beautiful gifts that Rita del Prado and the Karma Duo have given to the childhoods of the Hispanic world. This theme refers to a vehicle used in the mountainous areas of Cuba, the result of assembling the chassis of a bus to a tractor. On board this curious means of transportation, the musicians invite us to tour the Cuban geography in a perfect game of words and instruments. If you have a daughter, I hope you are educating her with this song.

cheer / William Vivanco 

William Vivanco gets "el guajiro" on this, the second track on his album the miraculous island (Naïve Records, 2018). He wants to be a sailboat to travel the whole world: from Amaya to Pueblo Nuevo, Veracruz, Aserradero, Consolación and passing through Berlin. But flow of this singer-songwriter lands in Havana, where there are people who live with less and are amazed by the bonanzas of transportation. There then, warns the maroon, some only have the job of waiting; while others can brighten up their days with the “poison of old classic cars”. Because Havana wants alegrón (almendrón). 

mulatto driver / Maria Teresa Vera and Rafael Zequeira    

The skills of a mulatto driver behind the wheel of a car are the theme of this century-old piece by the duo Maria Teresa and Zequeira. Again, the car as a symbol of social status, something that actually precedes the internal combustion engine. It cannot be forgotten that once upon a time this status was also expressed through carriages, quitrines, volantas or palanquins. 

Give me the ticket / Matamoros Trio 

As always, urban transport has been part of the chronicle in popular dance music of all time. One of the quintessential chroniclers of the 20s and 30s of the last century was the Trío Matamoros. In those early years of public transport and ticket holders, the problems could have been of a lesser magnitude, but neither were they different from the current ones, especially for the most disadvantaged.

love in bus / Comp. Otilio Portal; int. The Rose Trio 

Composition by Otilio Portal, recorded in 1954 for Panart by the Trio La Rosa, a popular group that enjoyed great recognition in Cuba and the Caribbean during the 40s and 50s. In this hilarious guaracha, the trio tells us the cycle of a relationship of couple, lived and narrated from a bus, a very familiar feeling for most Cubans. I just hope that, like the protagonists of the story, they haven't turned out a baby dressed as a guagüerito.

The bus / Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera  

This is one of the first recordings of La Sonora Matancera in the CMQ studios; a sign that, even in the 50s, getting on the well-known buses of the time was a true odyssey. Because once the driver starts, the mambo begins inside that device that is bumping through the streets of the city; a journey where anyone could die of fright. The images that the voice of La Guarachera de Cuba returns to us are quite clear: hands that grab what they can and turn you into a drum. Oh, what a way to squeeze! Oh, I'm going to faint! 

Cab / Pepe Reyes 

Pepe Reyes, that little-known pianist and singer from Santiago de Cuba in the history of Cuban music, is the composer and performer of this guaracha that reflects the work that goes into taking a taxi and traveling around the city to go to work. Pepe was also a singer of filin in the 50s, and vocalist of La Sonora Matancera and many other traditional Cuban music orchestras that had their splendor in the middle of the last century. In 2014, the Vintage Music FM radio network launched the green tale, a compendium of some of the most emblematic songs of this musician. Hopefully it will serve to rescue his imprint within the musical panorama of the Island.

P for stop / Welcome Granda and La Sonora Matancera

This topic, like the person who will be behind you on the bus, will inevitably stick with you. With the mix of mischief in tone and an orchestration full of details, armed on top of an impeccable rhythmic base, Bienvenido Granda and La Sonora Matancera manage to create a piece worth listening to more than 60 years after its recording. 

titus the taxi driver / Los Van Van  

Driving a taxi throughout Havana, at any time in its history, since this service emerged until today, is an inexhaustible source of experiences. Already in the 30s of the last century, that great Cuban writer who was Lino Novás Calvo rehearsed some "Confessions of a boatman in Havana" that maintain a surprising validity shortly after turning a century. Composed especially for a television series in the 80s, this theme by Los Van Van exposes the vicissitudes of a "good people" taxi driver in the midst of unusual and unexpected situations.

What a camel, what a sausage / Aragon Orchestra 

In the Cuba of the 1990s, riding a "camel" was a daily routine for the inhabitants of the big city. However, the little understood or the youngest are not going to think that the Cubans were at the expense of the two-humped animal native to the steppes of Central Asia. Although the name of the popular means of transport, without a doubt, was an allegory to this mammal, due to the singular silhouette of the artifact, a hybrid of a tractor and a bodied trailer. It is precisely to the adventures and misadventures of the passengers of this train-bus that this theme of the eternal brass band alludes. 

the taxi belt  / Original from Manzanillo 

It is important not to forget about the seatbelt, but in case you miss it, both this song and the taxi driver will take care of reminding you. In this story, written by Cándido Fabré and set to music by Original de Manzanillo, the various ways in which someone can be asked, always politely and cordially, to put on the leash for their own good.

The bike wedding / Reve Orchestra 

It is the story of a modern love: “Oscar wants to get married with a different wave” and he found his destination to travel by bicycle to his wedding. “The great news of a bicycle wedding” puts the entire city in anticipation; Oscar runs and hits the pedals, because “the mother-in-law is coming from behind”. In that love affair that is told here, Oscar spends six minutes. The theme is part of the CD Latin American rumberos (Areíto, 1985), by the legendary Orquesta Revé, founded by Elio Revé in 1956. The characteristic sound of Juan Formell (product of his time with the group at the end of the 1960s) is also felt, and it is extremely moving.

Havana City / Los Van Van

Welcome to the capital. Welcome to the city of contrasts, of the absence of personal space. It is still a beautiful city, but at the same time hostile, and it is this feeling that Los Van Van capture beautifully, as they know how to do, in this song where only with the story and the arrangements they draw —masterfully— a postcard of Havana, where once again the '53 Chevrolet is the protagonist.

The bike rap / Opus 13 ft. Paulito F.G.

This song makes a proposal that perfectly applies to these times. Accompanied by top metals, Paulito FG dedicates himself, to the sound of a quasi-rap, to explaining all the advantages of riding a bicycle, inviting us to ride on the grid. Because that thing of not having to wait, takes them all; although, pay attention, do not forget to put the padlock on this precious means of transport. 

The bus / Candido Fabre  

In the 90's in Cuba, Candido Fabré and his compositions caused a furor together with the Original de Manzanillo.  The bus or Get over there gentlemen —how he is still remembered and sung— was one of those hymns at the tempo of guaracha and they are the ones that made the most impression on the people of the Island, due to the freshness of the lyrics and their stories: the lively daily life of Cubans in those years, the public transportation and its endless crisis: poor condition, no fuel, and Havana doesn't fit in Guanabacoa, a detail that drivers still don't understand. Today, 30 years later, we are still in the same situation or worse. "Some ask last, others don't wait in line / to get to the door they push each other and sometimes the bus suffers facial disfigurement." Does it ring true to you?

The stop / The Noro and First Class

If there is a focus of anxiety in any coordinate of our insular space-time, that is the bus stop. The difficulty in traveling the desired distance —never thinking of the straightest path—, together with the daily hours lost, has been for years, the main wear and tear of millions of Cubans. In a country that cannot even dream of multimodal transport for its main cities, the lives of many take place in this long wait. Agglomeration at rest to give way to agglomeration in movement; our life goes on like this, between involuntary crowds, between stops, queues and buses. And Noro and First Class know it. 

The bus / Elito Revé and his Charangón ft. Telmary 

La China says that with that face and that body she doesn't take a bus. That they were not made for her, that she cannot imagine at a stop, a tremendous time and that nothing happens. That not even if it's raining, that she can't get to a concert stressed, that she prefers to put out her hand and go by "bottle" or by electric motorcycle, bicycle, pedicab, skateboard, stroller... In this song, the second of the album wow! (Bis Music, 2019), Elito Revé and his Charangón are accompanied by Telmary in what became a delicious chronicle of urban transport in the Cuban capital. “Warm up, China! That this heat does not believe in keratin”.  

The taxi / Osmani Garcia  

In this case, the taxi is a pretext for a simple two-way game. However, the image of a girl on the road, stopping the taxi driver thanks to her "attributes", and the car as a symbol of social status, bring us here another dimension of certain problems expressed through themes such as urban transport.

my friend chichi / Elito Revé and his Charangón ft. kola loka

Elito Revé's Charangón has an original stamp in its sonority: its voices, the characteristic fan on the timbal, the bomba, its mambos, optionals and mazacotes, those codes of timba, mixed with changüí, and Cuban popular music. that they have known how to maintain. In this theme, belonging to the CD What are we talking about (Bis Music, 2010), they work hard over time and, through a topic as attractive and exotic as almendrones, Chevrolet, pedicabs —relics that you only enjoy exaggeratedly in Cuba in the boating business—, fuse their flavor with the aguaje by the duo Kola Loka, a couple of crazy people who have imprinted a comical nuance on Cuban music.

P6 and P9 / I will go Oma 

In a distant 2012, Ire Oma and Harryson were setting standards in the then young cast, with a theme dedicated to a classic neighborhood character, the P, the articulated bus line that crosses the city from one side to the other. That mobility has always been a headache in Havana, that if the bus passes (when it does), that there is no room for a soul, that once inside it is a small jungle in which there is no choice but to live, everything The inhabitants of this city know this well, but if they sing it to them in reggaeton mode with a key, it becomes a little more bearable.

water oil / The Confidential

Many of those who inhabited Cuba from 2009-2012 must have been exposed at some point to this cubatón classic. This song burst out of nowhere, like a one hit wonder, and suddenly you could find it the same on board a bus, in a state cafeteria as in a party of 15. Although it is no longer heard with the same frequency, it is still in the Cuban collective musical subconscious.

your husband's motorcycle / wow poppy 

Wow Popy is an emerging cast member of the new generation of reggaeton players on the Island. This song, from his new album the motorcycle remix (Rami Records, 2022), has been one of the most listened to in the cast inside and outside of Cuba, since it came out last February. Months later he launched a collaboration with Diván and since then it has been a total explosion. Wow Popy warms up here when she says: “Mommy, don't post my photos anymore / And give your husband his place / To the one who looks for you on a pi pi motorcycle / To the one who says he is my enemy”. What do you expect to gossip with the well-achieved musical codes of this boy? take a walk

Listen to the full playlist at Spotify and in Youtube

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