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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Various Artists

By Marie Elsie St. Léger
Published February 15, 2006

CONGO TO CUBA
Putumayo

Putumayo scores again with Congo to Cuba, highlighting the strong ties that bind Cuba and West Africa. Son and rumba don’t hold sway in African clubs in the same way as in the 1960s and ’70s, but the rhythms that dominate today, including soukous, can claim direct lineage to the sounds that first claimed the imagination of African musicians decades before. You know the story: Africans forced to the New World, find comfort in their music, change it, nurture it, then take it back home. West Africans take to son montuno immediately, incorporate the rhythms into their own, change it, nurture it, then bring it back home. Hear it all on Congo to Cuba, from Cuban-American Chico Alvarez (“Val’ Carretero”), who learned his trade in Cuba after a childhood in New York, to Africando’s Gnonnas Pedro (“Yiri Yiri Boum”), who makes an oft-played Beny Moré classic his own, to Tshala Muana (“Lekela Muadi”), the Congolese dance sensation who later made it as a solo singing act and brought the Kiswahili language to salsa, to Cuba’s Chocolate Armenteros (“Ritmo de Mi Son”), who has seen and heard—and played—it all.