La Explosion Del Momento

Orquesta Revé, 1989

This selection of Orquesta Revé’s music is the best of their three albums. The songs are strong, simple and certainly ‘sabroso’ (tasty). Relationships between men and women, are, not surprisingly, the theme of most songs. They range from the sensuous ‘Ruñidera’ (which opens this album) with its refrain of ‘acurrùcame, abràzame con cariño’ (‘hug me’) to ‘Yo No Quiero Que Seas Celosa’ (’I don’t Want You To Be Jealous’). Various songs comment upon social life in Cuba, such as ‘El Ron ‘Pa’ Despue (‘Leave the Rum for After’). Later compositions are more philosophical in content such as ‘Mas Viejo Que Ayer, Mas Joven Que Mañana (‘Older Than Yesterday, Younger Than Tomorrow’) and ‘Que Cuento Es Ese!’ which laments the brevity of life – its over in three short steps – you are born, you grow-up and then you die.

Son is the popular dance music of Cuba – the root of modern salsa. Dating back to at least the turn of the century, it draws on both Hispanic and African traditions which have given Cuba its unique musical identity. From the predominantly Yoruba (of Nigeria) and Congolese slave population who worked the sugar cane plantations came the powerful Afro-Cuban percussion; from the Spaniards, the tres (the small guitar of three sets of double strings).

This blending of two cultures in son is comparable to Santeria, which combines elements from Christianity with traditional African religion, and is fundamental to the Cuban way of life.

Son originated in the eastern most end of the island among a predominantly black population, and although stigmatised as ‘lascivious and primitivist’, gradually made its way westwards to find acceptance in Havana. From there, it was to become one of the most influential forms of popular music this century. The strong melodies and powerful rhythms of hundreds of Cuban ‘sones’ found their way into the American market during the 1920’s, eventually back to Africa, and finally all around the world.

So what is son? Son’s distinctive features include a syncopated rhythm tapped out on heavy wooden sticks or ‘claves’, and an improvised vocal and a repeated chorus or ‘montuno’ towards the middle or the end of a song. Its major contribution to popular music around the world has been obscured by other generic terms such as salsa and rumba, but as Carlos Embale, one of Cuba’s most revered soneros, says: ‘Salsa is son, and son was born here in Cuba. Here we have infinite varieties of son – slow, fast, hard and lyrical, funny and sad’.

Some musicians will explain that you can tell it from other kinds of music by how tasty it sounds. ‘Sabroso’ – tasty – is a word liberally applied by Cubans when describing their music, and in fact ‘salsa’ means literally ‘sauce’.

Changüi is a faster version of son, from Guantanamo in the east of Cuba, danced with tighter, more mincing steps. It is the musical style that 59 year old Elio Revé and his band have made so famous.

Reviews

  • ...deliver with kilojoules of verve and spirit. ...biffing brass and percussion, delicate embroidery by a line of violins, and vocals with that wonderful instinct for surfing on waves of polyrhythm. Orchesta Reve...deliver with kilojoules of verve and spirit. Q Magazine (UK)