Carlos Sarduy – Charly en la Habana

Like with so many Cuban music artists, not enough people in the world have probably had the chance to access and hear Carlos Sarduy’s unique Afro-Cuban jazz music or super-fine trumpet playing.  This artist is another little gem from the much-insulated music bubble of Cuba.

Like with most Cuban music artists, there’s little to be found about Carlos Sarduy in the global press or cyber world.  No content on an official website.  No official musician/band page on FB (enough on its own to earn this artist my respect). Nothing really to be found in Wiki. So I don’t know much about what he’s doing musically in these days.

What I know is that during Carlos Sarduy’s long career in his so far short-lived life, he has collaborated with a long list of Cuban and Spanish music greats including Esperanza Spalding, Los Van Van, Roberto Carcasses, Bebo Valdés, Horacio el Negro, Julio Barreto, Ojos de Brujo and Buika.

On Carlos Sarduy’s first (and I think, only) solo album Charly en la Habana you’ll also find guest artists Chucho Valdés, Amadito Valdés,  Teresa García Caturla, Francis del Rio and Germán Velazco.  That’s a pretty great sign of something musically special yes?

Carlos Sarduy - Charly en la Habana (2005)

Charly en la Habana (2005)

Of all the instruments in the world I have an especially-sweet spot for the trumpet. So I can also tell you that Carlos Sarduy’s chops are pretty phenomenal – as is the level of musicianship of all musicians on Charly en la Habana, both guests and core ensemble members.

Also I know that the music on this album is skilfully composed (by Carlos Sarduy mostly) Cuban jazz with a sound only made in Cuba.

Check the music out yourself with these mp3 sample tracks from Charly en la Habana ‘Rumbatere’ features Carlos Sarduy’s contemporary Cuban jazz counterpart, saxophonist Germán Velazco (an artist for another day in this here Cuban series). ‘Erifa’ has some beautifully-minimalist vocals by Cuban singer/composer Francis del Rio.

Carlos Sarduy - Charly en la Habana (2005)

Charly en la Habana (2005) – Carlos Sarduy

‘Rumbatere’ – Charly en la Habana  – Carlos Sarduy (featuring Germán Velazco)


‘Erifa’ – Charly en la Habana  – Carlos Sarduy (featuring Francis del Rio)


You could buy the physical Charly en la Habana cd through on-line stores.  Or you could listen to and buy electronic copies of the music through Carlos Sarduy’s Bandcamp page or on Soundcloud.  But a much, much better and brilliant idea is to get yourself on a plane to Cuban shores and find this CD and more. It’s unfortunate for Carlos Sarduy and most music artists in Cuba, and unfortunate for worldwide appreciators of Cuban music that for political, social and economic reasons, you’ll probably have a hard time finding Charly en la Habana (and most other contemporary Cuban music CDs) in record stores outside of Cuba.

Maybe you’d find it in Spain these days where Carlos Sarduy might be?  Maybe he’s recording new music? Releasing it on vinyl?

Playing live?  You see it’s the live Carlos Sarduy experience that I really want to have now…in Cuba or anywhere else in the world he might be.

Anyone know where in the world we can find this?

This here salute to Carlos Sarduy, numero 2 in a Cuban music series, is dedicated as each one will be dedicated to my Cuban grandfather in heart (mi abuelo del corozon) and my dear friend (mi amigo querido) Elio. May you be in some beautiful place akin to dancing salsa, son, trova and rumba amongst the clouds.

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Roberto Fonseca – A Deservedly Lucky Cubano

Roberto Fonseca’s incredible recent shows at WOMADelaide 2014 reminded me of two things about Cuba and its music:

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Roberto Fonseca – Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

1. Cuba is a small island filled with a huge number of phenomenal musicians and amazing music.Festival del Fuego - Santiago de Cuba

2. Most of those phenomenal Cuban musicians, and most of that incredible Cuban music, never find the opportunity to leave Cuban shores.

You’ll only find them and their music by visiting Cuba – or if the right people outside of Cuba bring those artists and their music to the attention of the rest of the world.Festival del Fuego - Santiago de Cuba

Roberto Fonseca and the Cuban artists he collaborates with, are just a few of them.  Roberto Fonseca’s music, is just a bit of it.

A Lucky Cubano

Roberto Fonseca is one of the lucky Cubans who’s had the opportunity for the world to hear his music.  He became well known through his membership of the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra – and then his worldwide tours with two of its stars Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo.

He has also established himself as a player and composer in his own right – releasing a number of solo and collaborative albums.

Deservedly Lucky

Roberto Fonseca has very much earned the opportunities he’s had.

Born and raised in Havana, he’s been playing piano since he was 8 years old.  He is a phenomenal musician.

La Habana - Cuba

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Roberto Fonseca is also a gifted composer – creating innovative and magnificent contemporary fusion music like none other inside or outside of Cuba.

His album Yo, first released in 2012 and which I was lucky enough to buy a copy of from WOMADelaide before it sold out, is the most recent example of this.

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Yo – I, Roberto Fonseca

 “I wanted to delve deep into my roots in light of my experiences and show the diversity of my musical universe, all these ideas which I had put aside, unable to use until now.”

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

In Spanish, ‘Yo’ means ‘I’.  The compositions on Yo are a reflection of the life Roberto Fonseca has lived and his musical influences throughout.  That means his Cuban and Afro-Cuban roots, and all the music he’s been exposed to during his upbringing in a musical family and his travels around the world playing music.

The songs on Yo are a beautifully-blended fusion of sounds from jazz, classical, Cuban Son, Afro-Cuban music, North and West African instrumentation (especially ngoni & kora), soul, funk and electronica.  The music on this album is incredibly refreshing – each song a unique, diverse and fluid journey from start to finish.

Cherif Soumano with Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014Cherif Soumano with Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Fifteen very talented musicians, singers and producers from Cuba, Africa, Brazil, the U.S.A and U.K have contributed their artistry to the songs on Yo:

Baba Sissoko (Mali); Fatoumata Diawara (Mali); Seckou Kouyate (Guinea); Munir Hossn (Brazil); Etienne M’Bappé (Cameroon); Ramsés Rodriguez (Cuba); Joel Hierrezuelo (Cuba); Faudel (Algeria); Mike Ladd (USA); Assane Mboup (Senegal); Gilles Peterson (U.K).

Listen to these compressed mp3 versions of two sample tracks from Yo – and imagine the other wonderful sounds you’ll never hear unless you buy the real album yourself…

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Yo (2012)

80’s – Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Gnawa Stop – Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Close your eyes for this one, and listen carefully…

The Not-So-Lucky Cubanos

So many other gifted Cuban artists don’t have the same opportunities as Roberto Fonseca. To find them and their music you have to go looking in Cuba’s streets, restaurants, bars and music shops. It’s a very fun music mission- with excellent rewards, I promise.

So then, inspired by Roberto Fonseca and his incredible accompanying musicians at WOMADelaide – lucky enough to have the opportunity for their beautiful music to be heard by the world –  I start this series on Cuban music with his album Yo.

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014La Habana - CubaRoberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Most Cuban artists I share with you after this won’t have had the same opportunities for their music to be heard by the world.

This post, and every one after in my Cuban music series, is dedicated to my ever-so-dear, recently departed, music loving friend – mi abuelo Cubano (my Cuban grandfather) – Elio. Rest in peace Elio – te quiero mucho. 

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Colombian Music v Cuban Music For Fusion

Deliriously jet lagged in Bogota. Slightly dizzy from the high altitude. So happy to be here. This time (unlike my first) I know the fusion music delights that await me.


I was on a plane to Colombia when Cuban band Orishas gave me my first taste of Latin fusion music.

Fusion Music in Colombia? 

Arriving in Colombia for the first time, I didn’t know much about the music I’d find here. Only what travel books, blogs etc tell you generally about Colombians’ love of music and the popular music you will hear – Salsa, Cumbia, Vallenato, Reggaeton, Merengue, Champeta etc.  They are definitely right about that, but that’s only a part of the bigger musical picture in Colombia.

Colombia -

My first month in Colombia (Cartagena) all I heard was those popular genres of music – playing in houses, cars and bars everywhere. I left Colombia thinking those were the musical styles on offer.

Fusion Music in Cuba? 

I went to Cuba to find innovative and unique music.  I assumed I had a pretty good chance of finding it in Cuba.   When I heard Orishas on that plane I was even more hopeful.

Cuba - Beaver on the Beats

I never really did find it in Cuba. I heard music everywhere. I heard live bands playing everywhere. I heard multi talented/instrumental and technically brilliant musicians everywhere.  I found some cool, unique  contemporary jazz music – but I didn’t find much other music that really messed around with traditional styles and sounds.

Fusion Music in Colombia?

I found it when I got back from Cuba, to Colombia. Musical diversity+. Fusion. Lots of bands creating really original & unique music I loved by craftfully blending different traditional and non-traditional styles together.

Colombian music is the fruits of having a mix of very diverse peoples and cultures. Also unrestricted access to the music and peoples of the rest of the world – unlike insulated Cuba. Orishas live outside of Cuba by the way.

The musical diversity in Colombia, the fusion music and so many other reasons (people, food, nature & people in all their diversity) make me ever so happy to be back in Colombia again.

I still love Cuba too – and  listen to and love a lot of Cuban music.

Cuba -

A Fusion Ode to Cuban & Colombian Music

In celebration of both Cuban and Colombian fusion music then, here’s a really awesome fusion song. It’s  a collaboration between Cuba’s Orishas & legendary Colombian salsa artist Yuri Buenaventura.

300 Kilos (Orishas & Yuri Buenaventura – Emigrante)


Cuba – I’m not gonna make it to you this time round.

Colombia – here I am again. Bogota, here I am…for as many fusion (and traditional) music experiences as I can find.

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Orishas – A Musical Remedy for Colombian Anxiety

I first met Orishas exactly 6 years ago.  It was on the same time flight I am about to board soon – to Bogota, Colombia. I remember it ever so clearly. The feeling of anxiety, and the moment Orishas’ music made that anxiety disappear and put a huge smile on my face.

Orishas -

No one else is going to Colombia

I was on my own you see. On a plane to Colombia for the first time.  With a total of about 5 Spanish words in my vocab. I’d been warned by a Colombian living in Colombia “Don’t come. It’s too dangerous”.  I didn’t know why I was going. But for whatever reason I’d chosen to ignore the Colombian’s advice and be on that plane to Colombia.

I was on the last of the 4 plane rides that took me to Colombia, by then in Spanish speaking territory. The same plane I’m about to get on again now. I looked around at the people and noticed that every other tourist on my last 3 plane rides had arrived at their destinations and departed by now. Why wasn’t anyone else going on to Colombia?  What the hell was I doing going to Colombia?  About that time I started to feel anxious.

The Orishas Remedy

Atypically for me I grabbed the airline headphones to try and find some music that might help soothe my anxiety, or at least maybe help me progress my Spanish faster.

A few moments later, to my absolute delight, I heard the sweet musical sounds of Orishas coming through the head phones. It was a totally unique mix of traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms with hip hop beats, scratching, really cool raps and beautiful melodic male vocals.

Orishas - www.beaveronthebeats.comThat was my first beautiful taste of Latin fusion music (Orishas are Cuban, based in Europe since the late 1990’s).

It woke me up to the fact that I was about to enter and explore a whole new magical world of Latin fusion music sounds.  When I realised that, my Colombian anxiety instantly transformed into excitement and a smile.

The rest of my Colombian & other Latin fusion music story is history. Part of that history definitely includes hours and hours of Orishas music listening and dancing pleasure.  The future will too.

The Music

Have a listen to some sample tracks from the Orishas albums. Try to imagine all the extra sounds you’d hear in the music if you didn’t have to listen in MP3 format. Maybe you’ll buy the CDs and that will become part of your listening and dancing future?

Orishas music is by the way, a perfect illustration of the distinct fusion music I was trying to explain in WTF is fusion music anyway Beaver?.


A Lo Cubano (1999)

A Lo Cubano (1999)

04 A Lo Cubano

10 Canto Para Elew Y Chango


Emigrante_Album_Cover_  Orishas_2002_Beaver_On_The-Beats

Emigrante (2002)

06 Niños

08 Gladiadores



El Kilo (2005)

08 Al Que No Le Guste

11 La Calle



Antidiotico (2007) Essentially a ‘best of” album

Cosita_Buena_Album_Cover_  Orishas_2008_Beaver_On_The_Beats

Cosita Buena (2008)

01 Cosita Buena

09 Machete

To Colombia with a Smile

Orishas was a top quality introduction to Latin fusion music – and are one of my all time favourite musical finds. I remember them today, because exactly 6 years ago they sent me to Colombia with a big smile on my face.

Orishas -

So then, HOLA COLOMBIA again!  I come with a smile this time too, because I know we’re definitely going to share many delightful musical experiences in the coming months. Hopefully lots of them will be fusion ones.

P.S . Sadly, Orishas is no longer  – but the 5 albums remain forever after, and are available to buy.

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