SKA CUBANO (UK/CUBA/JAMAICA)
Ska, Jamaica’s primal sound, first shook the Western world in the early 1960s then revitalised early-80s British popular music when The Specials and Madness charged the charts with their post-punk party groove. Since then ska has become an international music form, yet has been largely forgotten in the UK. Or so it seemed: Ska Cubano are gaining more attention than any home grown ska band since 1980’s 2-Tone pioneers. Perhaps the interest is because Ska Cubano, as the name suggests, aren’t 100% British. Lead by South London face Natty Bo, the Camberwell-meets-Santiago outfit mix ska and mambo to create a sound both nostalgic and new.
Investment banker Peter Scott’s desire to fuse ska and mambo – Jamaica and Cuba are neighbouring islands, both blessed with musical genius yet very different in sound and language - found Natty in Cuba inventing Ska Cubano. Their 2003 self-titled debut album suggested a band on the verge of finding a new fusion. Sophomore album !Ay Caramba! fulfils the potential their debut hinted at: imaginatively crafted, brimming with melody, wit and a joyous fusion of rhythms, this album’s about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. The UK public paid attention and Ska Cubano have since triumphed at Glastonbury, Big Day Out, Womad and pretty much every other UK festival going. No wonder: in concert few bands match Ska Cubano for presence and performance. The twelve-piece band are fronted by Natty and Cuban vocalist Beny Billy. With four horns and three percussionists they cook up a huge sound.
Natty Bo, a white Londoner who speaks in a Jamaican accent and wears brilliant mohair zoot suits, is the kind of character novelist Colin MacInnes once celebrated. Matching him is Beny Billy, a black Cuban singer who favours patterned black zoot suits and sings like an angel. Together they’re a musical Butch and Sundance, flashy characters who stand alone amongst the dowdy chaps of contemporary British music. Ska Cubano’s big hearted and very bright joy is to be applauded.
Ska Cubano on the web
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