Spun: Compay Segundo/Omara Portuondo

By Stephanie Shewchuk

Cuban music has a long-standing tradition of incorporating political attitudes with sanguine rhythms to produce an emotional musical recollection of Cuban history. The simultaneous release of two separate collections of songs from famed Buena Vista Social Club artists Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo marks the ending of a romantic and classic era of Cuban music.

Released posthumously, The Cuban Collection: Compay Segundo includes a range of recordings spanning his 70-year career on the Cuban music scene. Deftly displaying Segundo’s innovation and experience, this release delves further than his experience with the Buena Vista Social Club, offering an affable and accurate cross-section of the work of one of Cuba’s most accomplished artists.

Known as Cuba’s Edith Piaf, Portuondo proves herself worthy of this title with her rich and vivid voice reminiscent of the French singer. She was the only woman to be included on the Buena Vista Social Club recordings at the behest of Ry Cooder, the guitar stud at the helm of the project. Many classic Cuban musical anthems are included in The Cuban Collection: Omara Portuondo, including a charming rendition of “Guajira Guantanamera,” a song based on the poetry of revolutionary and national hero Jose Martí.

Not only do the releases of The Cuban Collection showcase the careers of two of Cuba’s most preeminent artistst, they also provide an excellent introduction to Cuban music in general.

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