New Internationalist

Goza Pepillo

June 2007

Without wanting to denigrate the achievements of Buena Vista Social Club (and its myriad spin-off solo projects), the album – as probably the biggest international hit for Cuban music in the past 20 years – also posed a problem. Here were musicians, great ones, in their sixties, seventies, eighties. Whatever else Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and the band represented, it wasn’t the future of Cuban music.

Led by jazz pianist and composer Roberto Carcassés, Havana’s Interactivo have some answers on this, their début album. For a start, Carcassés extends the reach of the traditional salsa, timba and son rhythms with an injection of funk, rap and r’n’b. And with the combined power of poet-cum-rapmistress Telmary Diaz, singer Yusa and a big (but not too big) band, Carcassés has the courage of his convictions. On songs like ‘No Money’ and ‘Pa’que Enamore’, full-bodied funk vocals break the songs wide open.

Perhaps riskier is Goza Pepillo’s lyrical stance. ‘Los Revolucionarios’ – a marvellous groove employs a bit of electronic trickery and slinky fuzz guitar to turn up the heat – makes a not-so-veiled comparison between Cuban politics and its people to a failing marriage. If this enrages Castro, then their refusal to countenance floating to Florida (‘I’m not going! I don’t want to!’ they sing) won’t endear them to the vociferous anti-communist Cubans in the US. Clearly, Interactivo know their own mind, as well as music, and they’re not afraid of asking questions either.

This column was published in the June 2007 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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