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Articles Illustration: Laura Llópiz. Illustration: Laura Llópiz.

Ten Cuban singles of 2021

We surrender to the obvious: (almost) nobody listens to records anymore. In one of those curious pirouettes of musical consumption, we are back to a time when singles set the tone for consumption, and albums are a declaration of principles by artists to tell us where their head is at, but the truth is that in everyday life we live, love and suffer through individual songs that follow each other with dizzying speed. That is why we want to be consistent with this change of era and we bring you a selection of what we consider the best singles Cubans of the year 2021. We consciously leave out what may be THE theme of the year, Homeland and Life. We take responsibility. We believe that this has been a year marked by a healthy diversity of musical expressions, a hopeful sign that Cuban music still has things to say.

Guajira / Ruy Adrián López-Nussa ft. Dayme Arocena  

There are musical moments that are true miracles, unique astral conjunctions. This is one of them. Guajira already existed. Ruy Adrián had played it live and had even recorded it with the Senegalese singer Alune Wade (with a text in Wolof, native language of the ethnic group of the same name) for the record I told you (Mack Avenue Records, 2020), by his brother Harold López-Nussa. But Ruy was clear that he wanted to include it "Cuban style" in his first phonographic project as protagonist. Already with the great Daymé Arocena on board, no other language was necessary: vocalization and high scat ended up rounding off the wonder. 

fakir / Atlanta

Leonard Acosta, Daniela Perez and Miguel Parapar, together with some Rapzodia musicians, have created a good musical union with Atlanta, the new project with which they launched fakir. A theme where rap coincides and relates to R&B, jazz and trap; in which Leonard's rapped lines and Daniela's well-sung choruses complement the song's message. It was July when they released it. The events of 11 J in Cuba were very recent and the artists were eager to express the feelings of the people. fakir it has many mixed feelings, it is pure dynamite, waiting to be activated.

Even if it's a bit / Leoni Torres, Cimafunk and Brenda Navarrete

The energy that this song gives off is spectacular. A spark that lights up, that makes you dance wherever you are and brings out the most authentic Cuban flavor in you. No wonder it has become one of the hit most enjoyed of the year. We already know its three protagonists very well: Brenda, Leoni and Cimafunk, who were able, through different styles, to create a synergy full of versatility, freshness and youth. A tasty three-string connects with a catchy chorus and powerful rapping. Stories of love, peasants, rumba and feminine power; tradition and sensitivity; blackness and flow Caribbean complement each other to make the song a very attractive sound proposal.

Aceleyo Aña – Quantic Remix / Yelfris Valdés ft. quantum 

Forged in the heat of great names of the Cuban musical tradition, Yelfris Valdés is one of the best exponents of a generation of Cuban artists that is destroying the space-time dimensions of music. In this song, producer DJ Will Holland (here under his pseudonym Quantic) brings to life what is perhaps one of Valdés' most representative songs, a melancholic and experimental song, to which Quantic, as the old connoisseur of the Caribbean sounds that it is, it knows how to extract and sublimate all its mestizo essence and make us dance.

save yourself / Telmary & Habana Sana ft. Pedro Martinez, Kumar Sublevao-Beat and Osain del Monte  

This is one of the best themes the alternative night goddess of habanera gave us in that project with which he reaches 20 years of artistic career: his most recent album inside (Hummingbird, 2021). Beside Kumar, Osaín del Monte and Pedrito Martínez, Telmary and his all-terrain band bring us a good rumba that promises to be the cure that will save your soul.

Oh Na Na Na / Yomil & El Dany 

If there is an artist who has been very active this year, that is Yomil Hidalgo. When in February the reggaeton player announced that his new album would soon be released twerking 2030, we did not imagine that every month Yomil & El Dany would publish single after single, blow after blow, so that we would not forget that it exists. However, when it came out Oh Na Na Na It was an explosion of colors. Yomil is committed to turning urban music in Cuba around, placing it in the international arena "without losing our roots and essences." That's why the mix here of reggaeton with Afro trap that inevitably makes us dance. 

Poison / La Dame Blanche  

Perhaps we cheat considering Poison a single Cuban. Unclassifiable music in another label that is not global, explosive mix of oriental sounds, hip hop, cumbia, dancehall, flamenco, reggae and God knows how many other things, it's like those exquisite dishes whose ingredients we try to decipher without completely succeeding. But it is that Yaité Ramos Rodríguez, La Dame Blanche, exploits us with Cuban pride in its brutal mix, reminding us that at the very root of our culture as a country are the intertwined, the diverse, the ajiaco and the mixture. So Cuban, and good!

Funk Aspirin / Cimafunk ft. george clinton

Cimafunk was baptized with this featuring alongside the godfather of funk, George Clinton. If something was needed to consecrate the career of the Cuban musician, it is this single that mixes Afro-Cuban music with groove tasty version of the most traditional funk, where the fascinating connection between Dr. Funkestein himself and the author of I'm going makes us enjoy the beauty. “The mothership has arrived”, is heard at the beginning of this song that makes us think that the era of Cuban funk is already here. 

Azowan / Alexander Abreu and Havana D`Primera ft. Ruben Bulnes

This is a single launched especially at the end of the year, on the occasion of one of the dates that displays the most religiosity in Cuba: December 17. Alexander Abreu and Rubén Bulnes, as artists and spiritual leaders at the same time, with the ecumenism that has forged the Cuban people, parade here the Old Lázaro of the Catholics, that of the Yorubas and also that of the Congos. Transculturation and convergence, tradition and future, that is Azowan, a review of what has been our cultural trunk, paths of the past, of the present and also of the future.    

Speak killer / The Taiger ft. the happy

With the tres and the congas doing the typical tumbao of the son and a somewhat insipid participation of the happy talking, it is impressive how the combination of that master mind that is DJ Conds and a Jose Manuel Carvajal Zaldivarthe taiger) in a state of grace has achieved with a chorus of only two words that immediately managed to sneak into the popular speech of the Cubans  hit a great song for the dance and the alegríadera. 

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