In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last five years, now hear this: Cuba has arrived, big-time. More specifically, its musical treasures have been mined and turned into gold on the world stage, thanks largely to the Buena Vista Social Club. Through this phenomenon, and the musicians associated with it, the rustic urbanity of the son tradition was propelled into mass consciousness after decades of cult status. Of course, there is plenty of life beyond and around Buena Vista. An important document of Cuban culture this year is the double-CD Pura Trova: The Best of Vieja Trova Santiaguera.
Vieja Trova Santiaguera is a quintet of musicians in their 70s–including vocalist Reinaldo Creagh, guitarist-singer Pancho Cobas and tres player Reinaldo Hierrezuelo–who formed in the 1990s and some of whom were instrumental in the history of bolero and son in times past. They toured Europe and were featured in a documentary, Lagrimas Negras. This album, outfitted with a handsome and informative booklet, compiles tracks recorded live and in the studio, both official releases and rarities. Over the course of 28 tracks, we get a sense of a timeless yet culturally specific beauty, rough around the edges in all the right ways. It may be hard to get to Cuba, physically and politically, but it’s the easiest thing in the world to jump right into her music.