Saturday, April 18, 2009

Global funk connections: Orishas & Buena Vista Social Club

Taking their name from the elemental spirits of the Yoruba pantheon that was spread by slaves from Nigeria to the New World, Orishas are arguably the best known exponents of Cuban hip-hop worldwide, having won 2 Grammy awards. The African nature of the group's name also represents their dedication to the struggle of black Cubans, who still face dicrimination despite the socialist revolution that was meant to rid Cuba of racism.

An irony about Orishas is that while these raperos have exposed the world to Cuban hip-hop, they are no longer based in Cuba - they only hit it really big after relocating to France - and are seen by some in the Cuban music scene as selling out, by incorporating more commercial elements into their music. The Cuban Black Eyed Peas, perhaps?

I'm not any kind of authority on Cuban music, but if the below track, "537 Cuba" is any guide, selling out is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly when said commercial elements include sampling salsa and rhumba. This track rides a slab of one of the best-known Cuban songs of recent years, the Buena Vista Social Club's "Chan Chan".

And here is the original track. I can't say the rap version is better, but did anyone who saw the 1999 movie ever suspect that the music would sound slammin when put to a hip-hop beat?

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