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World Music CD Reviews North American

VARIOUS ARTISTS

By ELISEO CARDONA
Published January 25, 2006

THE HOTTEST MUSIC ON HAVANA CALIENTE
Havana Caliente

This first volume of an anthology from New York-based label Caliente serves notice that music is still Cuba’s most profitable export. In the U.S. the music creates a lasting romance—when Cuban musicians can get their visas. Now that the Bush administration is trying to win Cuban votes in South Florida by tightening the decades-old embargo, it’s our loss, since, unlike so many American popsters, most Cuban musicians still know how to swing. They continue to entertain and challenge while opening windows to the wider world. Aside from the evergreen  “Lagrimas negras” (“Black Tears”), performed here with soulful edge by veteran Omara  Portuondo, and the wistful “Espuma y arena” (“Foam and sand”), voiced by master troubadour  Pedro Luis Ferrer, many of these tunes are hits on the heels of the Buena Vista Social Club’s success. From lute virtuoso Barbarito Torres’ “A Santa Barbara” and “Guarapo Pimienta y  Sal” (“Syrup, Pepper and Salt”) to Los Van Van’s “La bomba soy yo” (“I’m The Best”) and  “Permiso que llego Van Van,” these tracks are Cuban classics.