Ska Cubano Ay Caramba!

Some of the coolest music I ever heard was a 1950s cross of calypso and Cuban music. It was all acoustic, rhythmically complex, vocally fun and instrumentally exciting. The first track on Ay Caramba! transported me back to that sonic space. It was as if the horns on "Soy Campesino” were issuing out of a portable phonograph playing thick dusty 78s. A sound that authentically vintage is rare in the digital age but Ska Cubano have mastered old-time Caribbean dance hall magic, complete with wailing horns, colossal rhythms and a singer that’s a ringer for Beny Moré. Ay Caramba! is a pan-Caribbean jam from the early ’60s that never had a chance to happen since the Cuban revolution largely cut off musical ties between Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean. Ska Cubano have assembled a diverse cast to imagine this sound that never was, recreating classic songs in neighbouring styles and composing new cross-cultural inventions. They take a crack at the bawdy mento classic "Big Bambo,” giving it a ska workout, add Colombian cumbia flavour to "Tungarara” and elsewhere pepper the material with Cuban sun, mambo, rumba, Haitian merengue and Trini calypso. Put on this album and feel like the carnival just came to town. (Coração da Selva)