El Espejo/ El Noro y Primera Clase
The best sauce in the world is made in Cuba. Years ago, perhaps since the genre was born. Call it timba, songo; Give it the name you want, but the best — by distance — is produced by Cuban musicians. It is an opinion, of course. I could argue it saying that the complexity and harmonic originality are greater than any other, speaking to him of the unequaled filling of the orchestras, of the much richer use of percussion or of the transcendence of metals in rhythm. But music is like love. It feels intense, and if you try to explain it, it may blur.
(Salsa that is produced in Puerto Rico or New York is better known worldwide. The market dominates this world. Money, advertising, super productions draw illusions of colors in the air, that is not new).
The theme is that a few years ago Cuban salsa was briefly in danger. The reggaeton onslaught, with its simple and repetitive but extremely catchy rhythms, and the demands of a globalized market that was gaining more and more strength, made us fear the worst. Some salsa orchestras began to put reggaeton in their repertoire and others converted directly to the fashion genre.
Then, out of the haze, several of our best riders emerged and said: wait a moment, comrades, there is going to be a fight here. Alexander Abreu warned in Mi musica with that "the salseros of my Cuba mistreat themselves, selling my music around there for three kilos, very cheap"; and El Noro, when he was still singing in the orchestra of maestro César Pedroso (Pupy, Nené's son), lowered the line to follow through a theme that was the flag and guide in that battle: La Preferencia. There it was said loud and clear that the thing was serious. "Take it easy, rumberos, we are going to defend it." And later, in that same song: "Benny, walk confident, we are strong." Already speaking to the Barbarian of Rhythm face to face are bigger words. I believed him and I was fine. They were strong and more. In the fight other orchestras did their thing, of course, as did TV shows, festivals, and events.
El Noro is one of our best warriors. His full name is Norisley Valladares and he has fought hard in the battle of quality timba against the world. First as a singer of Pupy y los que Son Son and, from 2013, with First Class, his orchestra. In 2015 he debuted with Sin escalas, a high-level album and, I think, little recognized in Cuba.
A few months ago El Espejo, the second album of Primera clase, was released. El Noro and his band again demonstrated that high-voltage timba can be made. That you can make good music and, also, lyrics that contain the popular language and its logics, without the need to be rude, macho or homophobic. That, as Los Van Van says, "you can dance to everything, without being so crude or clumsy." So don't change the station for me.
El Espejo brings 11 songs to enjoy, to cook, to exercise, to alleviate us a little bit of this pandemic madness, but all of the above dancing, because when you listen to the phonogram, "what's coming over you is an earthquake, a hurricane". Good musical arrangements, excellent invoice and the bomb that puts the interpretation of the man with the “standing hairs”.
As it happens to me with the albums that conquer me, each week is a different subject that I like the most. I started in love with the second song on the album, Las Vecinas. Great song. With an original tomb that marks the way you walk. You can follow it theme by theme, week by week.
Como me pasa con los discos que me conquistan, cada semana es un tema distinto el que más me gusta. Empecé enamorado de la segunda canción del álbum, Las Vecinas. Temazo. Con un tumba´o original que te marca la forma de caminar. Por ahí se puede seguir tema por tema, semana por semana.
Perhaps the penultimate song deserves special mention, Ciudad Maravilla. A theme dedicated to Havana. One more. (I wonder if any city in the world will have more dedicated songs than the Cuban capital). The track has the luxury participation of Rolando Luna on the piano. In addition to the fact that the song is beautiful, it has a peculiarity: a very different version appears on the album from another one that was recorded a couple of years ago. A better version. They both have a swing and spectacular strength. First it bothered me not to listen to the one I already knew and had enjoyed dozens of times, but then I started to like this one, and every time I hear it it makes me want to start for the airport and do what one of the choirs suggests: “date a turn, turn around, that the affection of my people is not seen in documentaries (…) San Cristóbal de la Habana, make way for me ”.
Finally, I wanted to talk to you about a sensitive topic. The Noro has powers. When he was still playing with Pupy, we found out that it was reversible ("you like this, as well as right-handed"). In that case, he shared that ability with Pupy and all those who are. Now in the theme I light without a candle we find out that the singer is flammable ("I am not to blame for being flammable, I am going to burn to make people talk"). What power will we find out on the next album? I have no idea, but surely there is more. We'll see. Hopefully there is not a long wait.
Daniel Silva Jiménez