Various Artists

Pinareno: Music from Pinar del Rio

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Because of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba, most of the salsa music that American audiences were exposed to in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s was recorded in New York, Miami, or San Juan rather than Cuba itself (where the styles that came to be termed "salsa" were created). But various forms of salsa and traditional Afro-Cuban music have continued to thrive in Cuba. An excellent compilation, Pinareno: Music from Pinar del Rio focuses on nine bands (and one solo artist, Aldo del Rio) who were active in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in the late '80s. Pinar del Rio is famous for growing the tobacco that is used in Cuban cigars, and it's also a town that has had its share of musicians. The diverse CD (which was recorded in January 1989) ranges from modern salsa like Grupo Sonorama's "Todo El Mundo Quiere Bailar" and Orquesta Cumbre's "Eres Picara Para Amar" to such pre-salsa as Grupo el Organo Pinareno's "La Negra Tomasa," Grupo Yarey's "Como Fuey," and Conjunto Campesino Cuyagueteje's "La Cola De Tu Caiman." Ranging from son and guaracha to rhumba and danzon, some of the more traditional small-group recordings aren't unlike what you would have heard musicians playing in rural Cuba in the '30s. This is a CD that not only gives us a taste of salsa, but also exposes us to the styles that paved the way for it.

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