Cuba has an incredibly illustrious musical history, and you can’t move for music on the island. From the ubiquitous salsa and son to the contemporary sounds of hip-hop and techno, here are some of the top Cuban musicians you should check out.
This hip-hop duo caused such controversy with their anti-government music that they were forced to migrate to the United States. Since then they have continued agitating for a change of government through their music, and serve as an inspiration for young Cubans fed up with the current system. The duo have stopped working together in recent years, but the influence of albums such as Nos Achicharraron remains strong.
As a rising star of neo-soul in Cuba, Arocena caught the eye of world music aficionado Gilles Peterson. He put out her debut album on his Brownswood Recordings label in 2015, and her career has continued to go from strength to strength since. Arocena has had great success on U.S. and European tours, charming audiences with her huge voice and Yoruba, Spanish and English vocals.
If electronic music is your thing, DJ Jigue is definitely an artist to listen out for. Mixing Caribbean rhythms into experimental digital music has gained Jigue a cult following, and his star is rising outside the country too. Check out his debut album, Metamorfosis, and take a look at his hip-hop production company Guampara Music.
Cubaton refers to the local reggaetón fusion that uses traditional Cuban rhythms over heavy basslines, and Gente de Zona is one of the top acts in the genre. They first came to prominence in 2014 thanks to their collaboration with Enrique Iglesias on Bailando, and in 2015 they had two more hits with La Gozadera and Traidora alongside Marc Anthony.
Another electronic music producer, Wichy started off making music with minimal equipment and playing sets around Havana. From humble beginnings he has risen to become one of the biggest names in the electronic scene, creating a compelling blend of electronic and folkloric music. Seeing a set from Wichy should be a priority for electronic music fans visiting Havana.
As a rapper and singer, Suarez is a versatile musician using jazz, hip-hop and reggae influences alongside traditional Cuban beats. She shot to fame with her album Polvo de la Humedad and released an album on Universal Music in 2016 called Palabras Manuales. One to watch out for if you are into singer-songwriters that are flexible in their writing and delivery.
For years this duo, consiting of Alexey Rodriguez and Magia Lopez, have been an integral part of the Cuban hip-hop scene. They proudly use their music as a tool for activism, gaining support from the international hip-hop community. Listening to them will give you an idea of the roots of hip-hop in Cuba, a scene that remains incredibly fertile to this day.
This female duo have been working together since 2012 after they met on the first female DJ course ever held in Cuba. Their music is a mixture of techno, house and tech-house, with African rhythms featuring heavily. They are an important part of the increasingly influential electronic music scene in Havana, and well worth a listen if you like your house music with a hint of traditional rhythms.