Various Artists

Cuba Si: Pure Cuban Flavor

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Puerto Ricans have made many outstanding contributions to salsa; even the more casual salsero should be hip to Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Manny Oquendo y Libre, El Gran Combo and El Conjunto Clasico. But it's important to stress that son, cha-cha, guaguanco, mambo and other styles that fall under the heading of salsa didn't originate in Puerto Rico or New York -- they were created in Cuba. This excellent collection spotlights some of the salsa that has come from Cuban artists in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the artists were still living in Cuba when Rhino released this compilation in 1999 -- including Los Van Van, Son 14, Sierra Maestra and NG La Banda -- while others were residents of Miami (Cachao, Albita Rodriguez) and even San Francisco (Conjunto Cespedes). The CD is full of "salsa tipica" -- that is, salsa that is very traditional, such as Jesus Alemany's "Descarga de Hoy" (a jazz-influenced, Cachao-type descarga or Latin jam) and Conjunto Cespedes' infectious son montuno "Umelina." But on more experimental offerings like Los Van Van's "Esto Te Pone la Cabeza Mal" and NG La Banda's "El Tragico," you can hear salsa being mixed with pop and/or hip-hop. Albita Rodriguez's exuberant "Ta' Bueno Ya," meanwhile, fuses Afro-Cuban elements with the Puerto Rican bomba. Boasting comprehensive liner notes by the L.A.-based disc jockey Nina Lenart, Cuba Si is one of the more thoughtfully assembled salsa packages of 1999.

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