Song Of The Day 4/4/2016: Miguelito Cuní – “Alto Songo”

Cuba: We Cool? – Hey, I hear we're all free to go to Cuba now! Fantastic! I'm pleased and privileged to now add Cuba to the list of vacation destinations I will never be able to afford in my lifetime. We also call this list "anywhere outside Washington State." Anyway, I can't wait to see all your vacation photos from Cuba on Facebook, so I'll have a whole new set of visuals to seethe at jealously while I kick the back of my desk and ask the heavens where the hell things went wrong.

Right, so, there's a political aspect to our reopened relations with Cuba that I couldn't give two pesos about. They're still Communist. Couldn't care less. The CIA attempted a coup that didn't go so well. I have no comment. Congress probably won't remove the trade embargo in my lifetime. Absolutely uninterested. I'm sure this administration's reopening of diplomatic channels will result in the kind of non-invective, calm and reasoned discourse that makes America great. I won't be there. I'd also like to remind you that I'm voting for President. Anyway, this renewed thaw gives me an excuse to take a look at Cuban music, which despite financial sanctions imposed on the island never seemed to have much of a problem reaching American shores. So I'm going to attempt a crash course in Cuban music this week.

I felt the first stop in any Cuban music survey should be son music, considered by many to be the root music of salsa. Son introduced African instruments and rhythms to the island music, brought over by African slaves who relocated to the eastern side of Cuba after the Hispaniola Revolution and their subsequent emancipation from the French. The form got to Havana thanks to some soldiers from the Oriente province, according to musicologists. I trust them.

Another web page describes son thusly.
The form of the Son is not complicated. It consists of the repetition of a chorus (el estibio) of four bars that since the beginning have been known as the Montuno, and a chorus sung in response to a soloist. In its purest form it consists of the "largo" and the "montuno". The largo is initially recited in a single voice and is followed by the call and response of the percussion and voices in the "montuno". This is quite similar and most probably derived from the "pregon" of African origin.
You can hear that form, twisted around a bit with a piano thrown in for good measure, in "Alto Songo" by Miguelito Cuní, one of the representative son musicians who made a name for himself in the 19 years before the Castro revolution. 

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