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Son: Soul of a Nation

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Album Review

Son might be a bit of a catch-all name for many of the Cuban styles, but there's no doubt it's completely associated with Cuba. What Sierra Maestra offer on this album is a brief history of son, with big songs from such classic composers as Beny Moré and Arsenio Rodriguez. As is apparent from the glorious resonance of the tres on the opening "El Son No Puede Fallar," they don't try and shoehorn all the songs into a single style. They mix things up, sometimes stripping things down, sometimes utilizing the band and their guests for a '50s sound reminiscent of the globally successful Buena Vista Social Club. There's plenty of melody here, as you'd expect, played with plenty of vigor and zest — but there's also a great deal of tenderness, the full breadth of son and its possibilities. If you want to understand what makes son so special, not only to Cubans, but to the world, Son: Soul of a Nation is an excellent place to begin.


Formed: 1976 in Havana, Cuba

Genre: Salsa and Tropical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Havana-based group Sierra Maestra is one of the foremost bands performing the Cuban son style, which enjoyed its height of popularity in the '20s and '30s. Though son experienced significant revival and renewed international interest thanks to the late-'90s Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, Sierra Maestra gave the music a new lease on life as early as the late '70s. Headed by Juan d'Marcos González, the nine-piece outfit came together in 1976 for a performance at the University of Havana, the musicians'...
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Son: Soul of a Nation, Sierra Maestra
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