Cuba Libre

According to music historian Juan Flores, author of the 2000 book From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity, boogaloo or bugalú was house party music made by young people from New York’s barrios, folks who couldn’t afford upscale Latin big-band shows. Blending African-American R&B with mambo, cha-cha-cha, son montuno, and other Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Latin diaspora beats, boogaloo broke through, solidified by conga player Joe Cuba’s 1966 million-seller ,“Bang Bang.” A year earlier, Cuba hit New York airwaves with “El Pito,” a song based on a Dizzy Gillespie track, “I'll Never Go Back to Georgia.” Cuba’s composition captures a party atmosphere punctuated with whistles, handclaps, shouts, cowbells, and vibraphone solos — you can practically hear the sweat dripping down the apartment walls. Those hits and 32 other vibrant songs appear on Fania Records double CD Joe Cuba: A Man and His Music — El Alcalde del Barrio, to be released Feb. 23, marking a year since the performer’s death. Born Gilberto Miguel Calderón in Spanish Harlem, Joe Cuba could do it all: weepy ballads, rollicking rumbas, and bilingual pop. Soul was always a strong factor in his music, making it palatable even for American Bandstand audiences. Boogaloo was usurped by salsa in the early 1970s, as a new generation of urban Latinos defined its sound, but it hits the spotlight again when Antibalas member and New Yorker Chico Mann performs Joe Cuba covers at the El Alcalde del Barrio release party.

Chico Mann performs with DJs Guillermo, Beto, and Señor Oz.
Thu., Feb. 11, 9:30 p.m., 2010

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