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Mala in Cuba


In 2011, Mala, Brownswood head honcho Giles Peterson and now-label mate Simbad travelled to Havana to collaborate and record with local musicians as a contribution to the ongoing Havana Cultura project, which aims to celebrate and showcase Cuba's musical talent to an international audience.

Mala in Cuba features musicians such as vocalist Danay Suarez, Grammy nominated percussionist Changuito and Buena Vista Social Club prodigy and acclaimed pianist Roberto Fonseca. The presence of the Cuban musicians is a real driving force behind the tracks featured on the album and, with it being previously remarked that all Cuban music is dance music, the album really acts as a demonstration of this, with its acoustic polyrhythms decorating the tracks.

The record itself is heavily reliant on dub structures, mixing techniques and processing, something often missed or lost in evolution within dubstep today. Although Mala in Cuba could not be considered a straight dubstep album, it includes many of the elements that made the genre great at its foundation - carefully-crafted minimal musicality and space, not just in terms of its note and beat placement but in its frequency range.

However - and this is what I love about the record - it is very much about musicians being themselves and executing music which showcases their personal influences. The Cuban musicians' creative gift to the record is obvious in every track. Mala's input is also clear via the jungle influences in some of the textures used, the depth of the sub-bass lines and the drum programming. Neither party has had their style compromised and it is a great achievement that the LP remains balanced as a whole.

Mala has really done a good job in utilising just enough of the recordings made in Cuba without falling into the trap of drowning the album in samples, which may have led to his identity being diluted in the process. This less-is-more approach has really helped to shine a spotlight on each contribution made by South American musicians with an element of suspense preceding each melody. When you hear the first chords in 'Como Como', they act as a very welcome and satisfying resolution to the tense feeling created by the repeated vocal line beginning the track.

'Noches Sueños' featuring Danay Suarez offers the listener the first actual 'song' and also acts as the album's finale. With each track on Mala in Cuba offering hints of the rhythms and tones of the track previous, I wonder whether this final track hints at his future musical direction. Either way, I'll be listening.