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Reviews El Noro at the Salsa Festival 2019, Parque Metropolitano de La Habana. Photo: NATHADREAD PICTURES El Noro at the Salsa Festival 2019, Parque Metropolitano de La Habana. Photo: NATHADREAD PICTURES

El Espejo/ El Noro y Primera Clase

The best sauce in the world is made in Cuba. Years ago, perhaps since the genre was born. Call it timba, songo; Give it the name you want, but the best — by distance — is produced by Cuban musicians. It is an opinion, of course. I could argue it saying that the complexity and harmonic originality are greater than any other, speaking to him of the unequaled filling of the orchestras, of the much richer use of percussion or of the transcendence of metals in rhythm. But music is like love. It feels intense, and if you try to explain it, it may blur.

(Salsa that is produced in Puerto Rico or New York is better known worldwide. The market dominates this world. Money, advertising, super productions draw illusions of colors in the air, that is not new).

The theme is that a few years ago Cuban salsa was briefly in danger. The reggaeton onslaught, with its simple and repetitive but extremely catchy rhythms, and the demands of a globalized market that was gaining more and more strength, made us fear the worst. Some salsa orchestras began to put reggaeton in their repertoire and others converted directly to the fashion genre.

Then, out of the mist, several of our best horsemen emerged and said: Wait a minute, comrades, there's going to be a fight here. Alexander Abreu warned in My music with that "the salseros of my Cuba mistreat each other, selling my music out there for three kilos, very cheap"; and El Noro, when he was still singing in the orchestra led by maestro César Pedroso (Pupy, Nené's son), lowered the line to follow through a theme that was the flag and guide in that battle: The preference. There it was said loud and clear that the thing was serious. "Calm down, rumberos, we are going to defend her." And later on, in that same song: “Benny, walk confidently, we're whole”. Speaking to the Barbarian of Rhythm in front of him are big words. I believed him and I was fine. They were whole and more. In the fight other orchestras did their thing, of course, as did television shows, festivals and events.

The Noro is one of our best warriors. His full name is Norisley Valladares and he has fought hard in the battle of quality timba against the world. First as a singer with Pupy y los que Son Son and, as of 2013, with Primera Clase, his orchestra. In 2015 he debuted with Without scales, an album of great level and, I think, little recognized in Cuba.

Cover of the album El Espejo, by El Noro and Primera Clase.

Cover of the album El Espejo, by El Noro and Primera Clase.

A few months ago saw the light Mirror, second First Class album. El Noro and his band once again demonstrated that high-voltage timba can be made. That you can make good music and, also, lyrics that contain popular language and its logic, without the need to be rude, sexist, or homophobic. That, as Los Van Van say, “yes, you can dance anything, without being so crude or vulgar”. So don't change the station for me.

Mirror brings 11 songs to enjoy, to cook, to exercise, to relieve us a little from this madness of the pandemic, but all of the above while dancing, because when you listen to the phonogram “what comes over you is an earthquake, a hurricane” . Good musical arrangements, excellent workmanship and the bomb that the man with the “standing hairs” puts on the interpretation. 

This last quality is for me essential for a timba band to sound good. First there has to be the technical stuff, of course: the instruments played correctly, the arrangements well done, the mix clean, the original composition, but if the singer doesn't get their heart out every time they pick up the microphone, it's a good background music. Whoever sings has to go out on stage or in the studio as if they were going to eat it whole, with curtains and everything. That energy is wasted by Norisley and overflows on this CD when you listen to it. And so he warns in the first topic, not like that, when he says: “To those who think that I don't have the plot, that I'm a white phosphorus and that rumba isn't for me, today I come to tell you the truth: I'm from war, I learned in war”.

As happens with the albums that conquer me, every week it's a different theme that I like the most. I started out in love with the second song on the album, The neighbors. Great song. With an original tumba'o that marks the way you walk. That way you can follow topic by topic, week by week.

Special mention perhaps deserves the penultimate song, wonder city. A theme dedicated to Havana. One more. (I wonder if any city in the world will have more dedicated songs than the Cuban capital). The track It has the luxury participation of Rolando Luna on the piano. In addition to the fact that the theme is beautiful, it has a peculiarity: a very different version appears on the album. which he recorded a couple of years ago. A better version. They both have a swing and amazing strength. At first it annoyed me not listening to the one I already knew and enjoyed dozens of times, but then I started to like this one, and every time I hear it it makes me want to drive off to the airport and do what one of the choruses suggests: “date take a turn, take a turn, that the affection of my people is not seen in documentaries (...) San Cristóbal de la Habana, make way for me”.

Lastly, I wanted to talk to you about a sensitive topic. The Noro has powers. When he was still playing with Pupy, we found out that it was reversible (“you like this, the same way forwards or backwards”). In that case, he shared that ability with Pupy and all those who are Son. now on topic I turn on without a candle we found out that the singer is flammable (“It's not my fault that I'm flammable, I'm going to light up so people can talk”). What power will we find out about on the next album? I have no idea, but I'm sure there are more. We'll see. Hopefully we don't have to wait long. 

Listen Mirror here.

Daniel Silva Jimenez More posts

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  1. fernan2 says:

    Undoubtedly a tremendous album, hard timba as they say out there... The spectacular noro in all the songs, tell me something about the interpretation in the song I was wrong, greetings

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