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Cuban salsa has Latin forerunners



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"There are no record companies in Cuba that can export the kind of music me and my brother play. We bring the tradition of Cuban music with new ideas. We belong to a generation of Cuban musicians, but we are young. So we will go slowly."

Puentes, who plays guitar and sings, says he and his percussion-playing brother are the only Cuban musicians playing this style of music outside of Cuba.

Cuban son music is much like blues in North America. As rock ’n’ roll is based on the blues, so salsa is based on son. Puentes explained very clearly the reason why Latin American salsa sounds different is because those musicians have created and evolved a style of salsa based on music played in Cuba 40-50 years ago.

And of course the dialect is different. Latin music has the dramatic, flamboyant and romantic voice phrasing that, no matter what your native tongue, sounds as though these men are promising their undivided love to beautiful women for the rest of their lives – and giving it with every fibre of their being. The truth is usually far from that though. The Puentes may have let the cat out of the bag regarding the mysterious Spanish language and its dozens of dialects. In their CD jacket, there are Spanish/English translations.

For example: On Oye Rumberito, the lyrics "Eh cabellero pa‘ la calle caminando sonando com mi bongo," translated to English is: "Hey man, onto the street and playing the bongo." And despite the simple message, Puentes comes from a well educated background.

"My father has a university degree. And where I come from is Arte Misa and there is a high standard of language and learning. I won second place in a national song writing competition there.

"We wanted to do the translation on the CD because, even though you lose a lot, we wanted to make it easier for people."

In July, at the Beaches Jazz Festival in Toronto, The Puentes Brothers made it easy for fans to vote them the Best Band at the Festival. A photo on the inside cover of Morumbo Cubano – an ancient seawall battered by white caps with young Cubans swimming on the barnacled breakwater – provides a snapshot of life in Malecon or middle Havana. Soon, Puentes hopes songs such as Oye Rumberito will be easy to remember.