Los Van Van

La Colecciõn Cubana

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Los Van Van was founded in 1969 by Juan Formell, a bassist/singer/composer who learned his craft as a member of Orquesta Reve, and he has been their musical director ever since. Incredibly, despite changing tastes and times, many of his original collaborators are still sitting in. The band's name translates to "the Go Gos," and considering their impact on the future development of Cuban music, this is perfectly apt. They invented an opulent blend of gracious colonial charangas (a string- and woodwind-based style closely related to pre-zouk orchestral styles from Martinique and Haitian compas), traditional son rhythms, call-and-response montuno vocals, playfully anarchistic synthesizer riffs, Afro-Cuban percussion, jazz improvisation, and even rock & roll. Their signature sound became known as songo, and it loosened up several generations worth of previously agreed-upon rules and limitations. Los Van Van made anything possible for those who followed; NG La Banda, Africando, and Jesus Alameny's Cubanismo are just a few of the outfits who studied their tasty juxtaposition of diverse elements and ran with it. The tunes on this collection date from the late '80s and early '90s, when Los Van Van's big band fusion was at its most inventive. The cuts range from the elegant, melody-drunk neo-charanga of "La Habana No Aguanta Mas" to upbeat tunes like "Por Encima Del Nivel" (aka "Saldunguiera") and "Calla," which includes comically absurd programmed drums that would not sound out of place on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

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