Gilles Peterson presents Havana Cultura
Today you might call him a DJ, but you might also call Usain Bolt a jogger. Gilles Peterson is a world-renowned tastemaker who has helped launch careers (Jamiroquai, Erykah Badu) and who entertains millions. Entertains may be the best word for what he does, because while he still plays the role of musical priest, he never gets preachy; that’s one reason why radio listeners and clubgoers have never tired of hearing him. And he champions the cause of good music wherever it may be found, with his own record label (Brownswood Recordings), and a syndicated radio show called, appropriately, Gilles Peterson Worldwide. Not to mention his blogs, podcasts, tweets and every other means he can use to spread the gospel.
His never-ending quest for the perfect beat led him recently to Havana — or rather, Havana Cultura led him to Havana. It was an experiment. We wanted to witness the effect new Cuban sounds would have on Gilles Peterson and vice-versa. Not surprisingly he wound up “discovering so many great up-andcoming musicians who can have a big effect on world music over the many years to come.” The obvious next step was to gather those musicians in Havana’s EGREM studio — yes, where the Buena Vista Social Club album happened — and make a record. Gilles saw it as a “great opportunity to do something that was really a musical melange — something new, something fresh, something not just Buena Vista Social Club…. Bringing together the street, the urban and the more traditional.”
The second disc is a compilation of 16 previously released and unreleased tracks, drawing from more top Cuban talent: Los Aldéanos, Telmary, Yusa, Kelvis Ochoa, Doble Filo, Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, Harold Lopez Nussa, Kumar, Free Hole Negro, Cubanito 20.02, Wichy de Vedado and Tony Rodriguez. The CD packaging was designed by Alexandre Arrechea, one of Cuba’s brightest art stars.
“In a way this is just the beginning for me,” Gilles says. “This is a new starting point for new Cuban music. I think this is something we need to take around the world.”