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09/07/2016
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Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews

El Changui Majadero
Changui Majadero

We say: Old time Cuban music given a second life and an engrossing spin

This gritty, pleasingly unrefined but musically sophisticated debut by a five-piece from Los Angeles seamlessly welds together two interesting Hispanic traditions. It combines that of Mexican migrants to the US with the sound of old-school Cuban changui where elements of African percussion are still evident.

The result is rootsy Cuban music at home in a backyard barbecue or dancehall in East LA.

The group's founder, Gabriel Garcia, came to this old style through academic study. But his passion and enjoyment in the music of Cuba's Guantanamo region—where he visited and learned from local players—is evident everywhere in these 10 (mostly) traditional tunes. The lovely "La Rumba Esta Buena" gets two treatments; one spare and subdued, the other punctuated by horns and playing up the party atmosphere.

Traditional instruments are employed (the three-string tres among them) but this isn't entirely grounded in the past. "Changui Pa Ayotzinapa" is a raw plea for justice for the 43 Mexican students from Iguala, Guerrero who were kidnapped and killed in 2014 while on their way to a demonstration.

Cuban music has, since the Buena Vista Social Club two decades ago, been too often viewed through rose-tinted glasses. So this collection is refreshingly different. Its lack of buff and polish make it all the more compelling.