Various Artists Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba Volume One (Waxing Deep) Release date: June 5, 2007
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
Just when you think there can't possibly be any more scenes that need unearthing, along comes this shocker. Who knew that Cuba, in all its Castro-ated iron-fistedness, was a hotbed of funkadelic inventiveness?
Turns out these Commies could get down—and maybe Fidel cut some slack for his country's músicos, the old softy. Si, Para Usted documents a thriving community of musicians who merged their country's renowned rhythmic verve with the piquant progressive-rock, psychedelic and funk elements that were infiltrating bands worldwide during the '70s. Such was the exploratory/creative power of the times (and the potent drugs) that these influences penetrated the Communist cultural gatekeepers and seeped into Cuba's stream of (altered) consciousness.
It's safe to say that most of Si, Para Usted's lineup (compiled by Dan Zacks, who hosts the podcast Waxing Deep Radio) will be unfamiliar to most listeners; the only names I recognize are Irakere and Jorge Reyes. Nonetheless, nearly every track's a keeper and many are as sublime as the best specimens any band in the “free” world had to offer.
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A feverish Afro-Caribbean sensuality permeates the rhythms of many of the cuts here, and intense heat waves of rococo guitar, brass, woodwind and keyboard also predominate. Many selections made me think of Santana jamming with Fela Kuti's Africa 70 and Os Mutantes in an equatorial opium den. The 17 songs on Si, Para Usted coruscate, radiate and oscillate beyond the Buena Vista Social Club's templates while still acknowledging their importance. Si, Para Usted is a helluva rumba in the jungle.