A year after the Adiós Tour, some of the musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club, among them lute player Barbarito Torres, reconfigured their artistic career in a new project.
AmeriCuba is the record that Havana Maestros presented to the general public. Ten themes that, according to Torres, seek to create an understanding between the music made in the United States and the Cuban rhythms, by combining instrumentalists of the stature of Amadito Valdés (percussion) and Emilio Morales (piano) with very well-known pieces like “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King.
Hand in hand with the Berman brothers, known producers of the successful Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba (2008) – where the talent of Cuban musicians and international bands like Coldplay, Maroon and U2 came together – Havana Maestros does versions of themes made popular by Missy Elliot, Jason Derulo, Otis Redding, B.o.B. and Dionne Warwick.
John Pareles, a columnist with The New York Times, published in June that it is a concept that could be affected. However, what the project reveals, in such distant songs as “Stand By Me” and “Good Times de Chic,” is the Afro-Cuban foundation of so much U.S. music.
With arrangements by Harold López-Nussa and Emilio Vega, AmeriCuba is a challenge because no one could have imagined that Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” could be taken to a mambo, or that the very well-known and versioned “Stand By Me” would let itself be adapted to the times of the cha-cha.
The musicians are playing by the original vocal tracks, said Berman to Billboard last May when speaking of the release of this piece in that video clip platform. That’s really how it was as if Ben E. King and the other artists were recording with them in the studio, he added.
Berman commented that they were really after the classical sound of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s because it is unique and so timeless, and added that the new wave of young U.S, tourists in Havana had an influence in the decision to include more recent songs together with classical hits.
Recorded in the Abdala Studios, 42 Cuban musicians of several generations participated in the record. AmeriCuba was released in the market on May 26, but three weeks before it was presented in New York’s NeueHouse Madison Square, with a second concert in the NeueHouse Hollywood.
An article published in Forbes, which highlighted the opportunity of a project that started to be created in the Obama era but which saw the light during the Trump presidency, said that with luck, collaborations like AmeriCuba will maintain the warm exchange of ideas, even when governmental relations are cooling.
It has been reported that Havana Maestros recently recorded together with Mayor Lazer a versions of the hit “Lean On.”