Carlos Santana´s favourite - ´Mezcla´ from Cuba
Mezcla, the name of one of the most popular Cuban bands, means mixture, since the band blends Anglo-American rock, Latin jazz, blues, reggae and a strong dose of the Afro-Cuban tradition with elements of the new Cuban song-movement nueva trova.
‘Mezcla makes the freshest and most original music I have heard for a long time,’ says the Latin rock superstar Carlos Santana, who has appeared with the band on several occasions. ‘My favourite music group,’ as he calls it, was unable to appear in the USA till he began protesting at the State Department in 1994 against the ban on Cuban visitors in the wake of the US blockade.
The bandleader, Paul Menéndez, could hardly be banned, since he is a US citizen who grew up on the edge of San Francisco as the son of Barbara Dane, an eminent white blues singer. In 1963 she was the first US musician to perform in Cuba after the revolution, and 12 year old Paul was so thrilled by her reports about the land, people and music that he asked to be taken there for a year. This was done, and the year grew into more than three decades.
Known on Cuba as Pablo Menéndez, he studied the guitar and composition at the National Art School in Havana (Escuela Nacional del Arte), where he is now teaching. In 1970 he co-founded the legendary Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC for sound experimentation at the Cuban film institute, which has served as a springboard for some of the island’s best singers, songwriters and musicians like Silvio Rodriguez.
As a guitarist, singer and producer, Pablo Menéndez works with various pop and jazz bands in Cuba and in 1983 arranged the music for an album with his mother Barbara Dane. The next year he founded his own band, Mezcla, whose name refers to its eclectic blend of Anglo-American rock, Latin jazz, blues, reggae and a strong dose of the Afro-Cuban tradition, to which are added elements of the new song-movement, the nueva trova. The latter is especially apparent in the quality of some of the song-texts, which lifts them above many still written for salsas. A main theme is naturally love, including a passion for public transport, which now and then resumes running after collapse due to lack of oil imports at the end of the Soviet era. Further themes are collateral power-cuts, ecological problems, lingering racism and the effects of mass tourism. But whatever the theme, the music begs to be danced to.
After producing their first LP in Cuba, the musicians were often on tour in the late 80s and early 90s in western Europe, where they then produced two CDs, including the well received album Cantos, produced for a German label and featuring modern arrangements of traditional songs of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion. Indeed Mezcla’s percusssionist Octavio Rodriguez is thought to be one of the best Santeria drummers. In recent years the band has played mostly in the Caribbean and the USA, sharing the stage with Carlos Santana or the salsa legend Tito Puente.
Events at the HKW:
Friday, 31st December, 1999
New Year’s Eve. 2000
Música Tabaco Y Ron
Justo Gabriel Pérez, Mezcla, Grupo Barricada - El Son del Caribe, Orquesta Burundanga, Ramón Loo und Latin Spectrum
Organiser: House of World Cultures
La Mezcla (Original Mix)
With Lazaro Ros. Intuition
Somos Hijos De La Mezcla
Las Puertas Estan Abiertas
Seleccíon de Exitos: Nueva Trova Cubana
Cuba Classics 3, Diablo Al Infierno
Warner Bros, Luaka Bop
Fronteras De Sueño
Cantos: Lázaro Ros Con Mezcla