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Music Review: Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. 2

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Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. 2 follows Waxing Deep's much-praised 2007 Vol. 1. As with the first volume of the series, Si, Para Usted Vol. 2 collects funk music from 1970s Cuba.

As curator Dan Zacks explains in the lovingly crafted liner notes, the Cuban State subsidized musical education and gave musicians a living wage that didn't depend on commercial success. The result was musicians creating without commercial pressures, lending to experimentation and creativity.

This was hampered by a lack of supplies. In the U.S. a record might be shelved because the label didn't think it would sell. In Cuba, state record label EGREM shelved projects because they didn't have the cardboard to print sleeves. There was also censorship and government interference into all aspects of the music — from permissible themes, to where the musicians could tour, to what bands they could be in.

The 16 tracks on this compilation are evidence that whatever problems the musicians faced, they were doing something right.

The lack of commercial motivation allowed for six-minute funky jams like Los Rapidos "Safari Salvaje," or El Combo Caribe's surf guitar and organ oddity, "Andalucia." There are also more mainstream sounds, such as the lounge disco tracks like "Y Apareco El Trombon" by Juan Pablo Torres, and "El Son De Victoria" by Hilario Duran. Los Papines' "Para Que Niegas" offer a new spin on the traditional guaganco, mixing vocal hiccups to the instruments, which adds an extra percussive element as well as an extra layer of weirdness.

Some of the songs are overtly political, like "Sonopop's "Vanguardia Y Juventud," or Grupo FA5's "El Siglo De La Libertad." Most of them however avoid politics, and you certainly don't have to be sympathetic to Fidel Castro to enjoy this album.

My favorite tracks were the latin funk of Los Barba, who contribute two songs, the psychedelic workout of Mirtha Y Raul's "El Sueno De Andria," and the dusty grooves of Los Llamas "Siboney." "El Sueno De Andria" is even more perplexing given that Cuba didn't have much of a drug culture. This song is evidence that Cubans were influenced by Western sounds, although they always put their own spin on the American funk, rock, and soul that they emulated.

Waxing Deep has dug deep in the crates, and every track on this album is a gem. I don't even want to think about how much it would cost to track down the original vinyl copies of these songs. The sound quality is good throughout, and the packaging and liner notes make this worth owning. Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. 2 is essential for anyone who likes Cuban music or funk. Let's hope they are busy at work on a volume three.

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