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Yusa Yusa Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review

Debut from new Cuban artist. Brazilian, Cuban and international influences combine...

Neil Bennun 2002

Yusa is a singer and a songwriter from Cuba, born in the celebrated Buena Vista district of Havana. The Buena Vista Social Club, however, this certainly isn't.

It isn't that she actively shies away from Cuba's much-fêted musical heritage on this debut CD. It's more that she draws her influences from all over the American continent and wears them proudly to produce bright, soulful, contemporary Cuban music with intelligent arrangements, excellent lyrics and an international flavour.

Like a vocally dexterous Tracy Chapman with a large jazz collection, her songs display a definite melancholic tinge, nicely leavened by her Brazilian and Cuban influences. 'Cuestión de Angulo' (A Question of Angle) is a good case in point. It begins with unaccompanied acoustic guitar reminiscent of Joni Mitchell until a salsa clavé rhythm strikes up over a bossa nova shuffle. "I let the impertinence of that silence loose into the street", she sings, before the tune plays out with a choral arrangement like classic Airto Moriera (think advertisements featuring Ronaldo or Roberto Carlos shown in the ad breaks of the World Cup).

She displays a yen for striking organic funk music ('Involución', complete with nifty strings, harmonies and a rap in rapid-fire Spanish) and sweet latin soul ('Tienta Paredes'). And she has a splendid facility for reworking more traditional latin music forms in songs like 'A las Doce' and 'La Partida', incorporating elements of Cuban vocal music and bossa nova with choirs and high-velocity acoustic guitar. The horn arrangements are striking, the sound modern and soulful.

Others like Lenine and Chico César have revitalised traditional Brazilian musics by incorporating funk and soul influences into forro and maractù. Similarly, Yusa has shaken up son and filin to make something distinctively Cuban but proudly international. An excellent, sophisticated, debut.

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