Various Artists

Those Sweet Swinging Charangas

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Many Cuban musicians resent the umbrella term "salsa," which has been used to describe son, guaguanco, mambo, cha cha, danzon and other Afro-Cuban styles. But salsa is certainly a convenient and useful term -- if a musician is playing all of those styles, it's easy to describe him or her as a salsa artist. Another Afro-Cuban tradition that falls under the heading of salsa is the charanga band, which is the focus of this good-to-excellent CD. One of the ways to recognize charanga-style playing is a band's use of strings -- you'll hear plenty of strings on selections by Original de Manzanilla ("El Barrendero," "La Mano en el Azadon"), Orquesta Ritmo Oriental ("Estoy Aqui Nuevamente," "No Quiero Quedarme En Eso"), Orquesta Tropicana ("No Se Que Hacer"), the famous Orquesta Aragon ("Persistire") and others. The violins and violas tend to give charangas an element of sweetness, but charangas still swing -- thus, Those Sweet Swinging Charangas is an appropriate title for this collection. Like other Tropicana compilations, this one fails to list either recording or release dates. Their absence is quite frustrating, and listeners shouldn't be deprived of that information. Nonetheless, Tropicana deserves applause for celebrating the richness of the charanga and putting a lot of winners on a single CD.