Listening to Cuba – Your lockdown Cuban playlist
In this strange time most of us are house-ridden and can’t even entertain the thought of travel. But thanks to the wonders of music you can still escape to an island far far away.
Cuba has a deserved global reputation for musical excellence and is probably one of the few places in the world where becoming a professional musician is a common career choice. When you walk down Obispo, the main street in Old Havana, there is live music pouring out of every bar and restaurant. In residential areas music blares out from mammoth speakers into the small hours; the louder, the better.
Those who follow Afro-Cuban religions drum and chant for days on end, continuing the traditions of the first Africans to arrive on the island hundreds of years ago. Music in omnipresent on the island, inescapable. Even during lock-down, as anxiety laps at everyone’s door, music is soaring out onto the airwaves reminding us of the joys of life.
We’re bringing you a slice of that Cuban joy in the form of a playlist. As well as the songs themselves, stunning shots of Cuba abound in their music videos, offering a small window into the country’s endless aesthetic charm.
22 Cuban songs to transport you
We’ve put together a list of 22 Cuban songs complete with YouTube links to help capture a bit of “Cubania”. This is by no means a list of the best Cuban songs ever written, but they are what’s playing out of every home on the island right now. Go ahead and click “Play All” on our YouTube playlist below! Alternatively here you can listen to the same playlist but this time in Spotify.
Cuba Isla Bella – Orishas featuring various artists
An unapologetic love letter to Cuba, the “beautiful island”, from various homegrown artists.
Musica Vital – Buena Fe, Omara Portuondo, Yomil and el Dany
A celebration of Cuba as pure, vital music. If you didn’t want to visit Cuba before you saw this video then, well…
Me dicen Cuba – Alexander Abreu and Habana de Primera
If you’re a sucker for a bit of brass then look no further than Habana de Primera’s front man and chief trumpeter, Alexander Abreu.
Me voy pa’ mi casa – Cimafunk
Hands down the most popular song of 2019, it’s title “Me voy pa’ mi casa” translates to “I’m goin’ home” and is sung pretty much any time anyone in Cuba wants to tell someone they’re leaving.
Bailando – Descemer Bueno y Gente de Zona
This classic number fusing flamenco with “reggeaton” has since been commandeered by Enrique Iglesias, but we’re sticking with the original! The music video was choreographed by much-celebrated Cuban choreographer Lizt Alfonso.
La Culpa (no la tiene nadie) – Buena Fe
More of a slow dance than a bopper, Buena Fe are loved in Cuba for their poetic and heart-felt lyrics.
Hasta que se seque el Malecon – Jacob Forever
Literally meaning “until the Malecon dries out”, “Hasta que se seque el malecon” is a real ear-worm and a favourite at parties that go on “hasta que se seque el malecon”.
Hace calor en La Habana – Kelvis Ochoa
Kelvis Ochoa has long been a favourite on the island and it’s not hard to see why.
Un año después (Que cosa la costurera) – Los Van Van
Los Van Van are an absolute staple of Cuban salsa. They’ve been making music since the 70s and despite the death of their much-loved front man, Juan Formell, in 2014, Los Van Van are still going strong.
Lo malo se va bailando – Yuli and Havana C
This song translates roughly to “dancing cures all evils”, something it’s worth remembering!
Que suenen los tambores – Laritza Bacallao
We challenge you to listen to this fantastic number by Laritza Bacallao without getting up from your seat – go on, just try!
Pataki de Libertad – Buena Fe
This is a heartfelt belter from Buena Fe. “Pataki” is a kind of parable or teaching story from “Santería” – an umbrella term for Afro-Cuban religions. Here, the song’s narrator is asking for a patakí about freedom in a world where black people are still enslaved by inherent racism.
Idilio – Leoni Torres
Lovely Leoni is by no means the first person to take on “Idilio”, but boy does he do it well. This salsa version is a modern classic.
Ciudad hembra – Alex Cuba and Kelvis Ochoa
Even if you can’t understand the fantastic lyrics, “Ciudad Hembra” is as sultry as it is catchy.
La Rumba me llamo yo – Daymé Arocena
Que calor – Qva Libre
Things get funky in Havana with Qva Libre‘s hit “Que Calor” – “damn it’s hot!”
Bajanda – Chocolate MC
Choclate MC’s title is a bit of Cuban slang which translates to “I’m out of here” or “get out of here”. “Bajanda” sung à la Chocolate MC has become a common interjection in Cuban conversations.
No más mentiras – Jacob Forever
A thumping “reggeaton” song about a woman who swears that from now on she’s going to be the one who’ll lies, cheat and break hearts. This is one of the most played songs of 2019 by the ever-popular Jacob Forever.
La vida sigue – Leoni Torres ft Alex Duvall
Normalmente – Wildey ft. Yomil y el Dany
Similarly to “Bajanda”, “Normalmente” sung à Wildey’s reggeaton hit has now become a tuneful accompaniment to everyday conversation.
Dolor con amor se cura – Kelvis Ochoa
An uplifting bit of traditional “trova” from Kelvis Ochoa, “love is the cure for pain” is a dedication to love’s power to bring us hope in the darkest of days.
“If love has a history
it’s the story of its strength
there’s always hope no matter how big the hurt.”
La Gozadera – Gente de Zona and Marc Anthony
Hace Calor en La Habana (it’s hot in Havana)
And no wonder with this amount of great music to get moving to! Scrap your home exercise video and get grooving to some Cuban tunes. No matter what the weather’s like where you are, Cuba’s infectious rhythms will bring some sunshine into your life.