Afrocubism - Various Artists
Humans are funny creatures. We’re at our most brilliant when we don’t intend to be. How many great inventions, innovations and works of art have been created in moments of extenuating circumstance or sheer misstep? Fourteen years a go, producer Nick Gold and guitarist Ry Cooder went to Havana to record an album that linked Cuba to Africa through the dark continent’s musical epicenter of Mali. Blame it on visas, trade embargos, what have you; nobody is telling stories out of school. It’s sufficient to say the promised Malians never made the sesh. Scrambling, Gold and Cooder, together with Afro Cuban All-Stars band leader, Juan de Marcos decided to seek out some of the legendary voices and players of Cuban son to instead record and preserve that historic sound in the fabled EGREM Studios of Havana. The resulting record, The Buena Vista Social Club went on to become the most successful world music recording of all time. But, what of the original concept? A decade and a half later, Nick Gold and World Circuit has returned to Cuba to find out and, according to the press materials, the music which is embodied in the new release, Afrocubism came forth very naturally indeed. The great cowboy picker, Eliades Ochoa heads up the Cuban corner. The Malians recruited for this experiment are truly the crème de la crème as well including Toumani Diabate on kora, Lassana Diabate on balafon, the ngoni of the great Bassekou Kouyate and Djelimady Tounkara adding electric guitar work reminiscent of both Ry and Vieux Farka Toure. Reflecting the aesthetic of Cubism, the album breaks down cultural preconceptions and lets the cards fall where they may. It definitely doesn’t have the focused impact of Buena Vista now classics like Candela or Chan Chan, but it has the soul of an authentic descarga between cultures with plenty of intersection. To Nick gold’s credit, without premeditation the tracks exude extraordinary balance with the exception of one or two cuts which are obviously Malian. After all, that contingent was invited as guests. But, in the same quaint and unadorned fashion as the Buena Vista recording, Afrocubism represents a convergence in time that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and listeners will be the richer for it.