Once a decade or so, a group comes around that turns Cuban music on its head, and takes their music to the world audience. First however, they must garner the respect of their fellow Cubans. Whatever else can be said of the island nation, due to some of the best and most accessible music education programs anywhere in the world, their standards for quality follow suit. Having won the title of Cuba's Most Popular Band several years in a row, David Calzado and Charanga Habanera were ready. Joining the ranks of such revolutionary groups as Irakere and Los Van Van, Charanga Habanera is the most important creative voice of its day. The writing throughout is painfully intricate and yet, flawlessly, effortlessly executed. Few timba groups operating today incorporate American hip-hop and soul sounds as effectively or naturally. With vocal performances from Calzado that easily rival the finest R&B artists the U.S. has to offer, combined with a group of instrumentalists all so individually brilliant that it would be impossible to pick the shining star, Soy Cubano, Soy Popular is the shot of life that salsa has so desperately needed. If the genre has one album since the turn of the century that qualifies as required listening for loyalists and the uninitiated alike, this is it.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez