Ska Cubano

Ay Caramba! (Cumbancha)

In the early 20th Century, a bridge was formed between Cuba and Jamaica. It's a bridge made not of concrete and asphalt but of rhythm and melody. And now the audio architects in Ska Cubano are giving it a 21st-century renovation. The swingin', high-styled outfit is fronted by British ska daddy Natty Bo and Cuban vocalist Beny Billy — a collaboration with intentionally mixed results. As its name suggests, Ska Cubano is a blend of ska beats, Spanish and English vocals, and loads of Latin-styled instrumentation, from front-and-center saxophone leads to acoustic guitar strumming and all manner of swanky percussion. The songs are thoroughly retro, though it's not surprising, considering most of 'em were written more than half a century ago. It's like a brief history lesson of Latin American and Jamaican music, from covers of the Columbian dancehall tune "Soy Campesino" to the vaguely disguised dick joke "Big Bamboo" to the playful "Tungarara," a children's song about frogs and toads. Again, it's an old bridge Bo and Billy have chosen to cross. But they're not trying to rebuild it; they're just here to touch it up a bit.

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