MATANZAS, CUBA 1957: AFRO- CUBAN SACRED MUSIC FROM THE COUNTRYSIDE (Smithsonian) Rating: NNNNN; HAVANA, CUBA 1957: RHYTHMS AND SONGS FOR THE ORISHAS (Smithsonian) Rating: NNNNN
The original Buena Vista Social Club might have captured the urban swing of mid-50s Havana, but the island's real roots summit was happening in the country east of the city. The rural province of Matanzas is a hotbed of Afro-Cuban culture, and it's captured raw and undiluted on these stunning 1957 field recordings. Part work songs, part porch sing-alongs, these eerie Orisha worship tunes sound like stripped-down gospel chants, deeply rhythmic and oddly stirring, with just the barest percussion supporting the voices. Even more powerful is the accompanying disc of spiritual music from Havana, where vocalists are surrounded by rings of bata drummers to create an intense roots ruckus. The original Afro-Cuban all-stars.