This article is part of AQ’s debut culture supplement, Cultura. To see the rest of the issue, click here
The worldwide influence of Cuban rhythms such as son and rumba can make it easy to overlook how music continues to evolve on the island itself. Telmary Díaz’s 2013 sophomore release, Libre, is a showcase for this evolution. Laced with a revolutionary fire that never wavers, Libre spans a wide range of deliveries and musical styles, with Díaz moving back and forth between spoken word, slam poetry and rap while never fully stepping away from the country and people she sings for and about.
Many of the album’s most impressive moments come from the 39-year-old Díaz’s explosive torrents of verse, her flow accelerating to a breathless velocity that dares listeners to keep up, as on the song “De Yalodde y Shango.” But to reduce the merits of Libre to mere vocal pyrotechnics would be a mistake. The album is full of joyous, danceable tracks like “Una Habana K Danza” and “Digan Lo K Digan,” as well as the aggressive funk rock of “Music Is My Weapon” or the slow burn R&B of “La Luna.”
Throughout, it seems that Díaz’s fierce intent is for the listener to reckon with her, her musicians and collaborators, and with a Cuba that has given much to global culture, but is nevertheless asked time and again to re-establish itself on the world stage.
Suen is a musician and composer based in Los Angeles. He currently performs with hip-hop artist Childish Gambino, New York electro-pop band Passion Pit, and Australian singer-songwriter Jarryd James. He will be releasing an EP of original material as Savio Savio in summer 2016.