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Xiomara Laugart: Tears And Rumba

James Nadal By

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Despite over fifty years of political turmoil leading to a ludicrous embargo, the music of Cuba has thrived and is as vibrant as ever. Though many premier Cuban artists have gone into cultural exile in America and abroad, they continue to seek inspiration from and expand upon the music of their homeland, continually performing it around the globe. Vocalist Xiomara Laugart is a prime example of this diaspora, and on Tears and Rumba, she revisits the music of Cuba's romantic golden era of the 1920's and 1930's. She specifically chose the enduring compositions of Miguel Matamoros and Maria Teresa Vera for this project. This music would go on to have a major influence on popular music throughout Latin America—due to the proliferation of radio—and eventually seeped into the big bands of the United States catering to the burgeoning Latin dance market of the 1950's.

A native Guantanamera, Laugart draws from the deep well of knowledge and experience she acquired from her formative years, when she gained national recognition as an expressive interpreter of songs from the nueva trova movement, as well as the classic guajiras, sons and rumbas strongly associated with the country. Xiomara Laugart is the preeminent Cuban songstress of her generation, with scores of albums released before her exile. Any comparison to the legendary Celia Cruz is warranted and inevitable, as she covered Cruz's songs in a successful Broadway production for which she received critical acclaim. But her voice is amply dissimilar, sultrier with an underlying sensual tone.

On this recording, the light finger plucking of the guitar by Román Lajara over the syncopated bass of Yunior Terry are the minimal melody accompaniment, save for the occasional use of flutist Javier Porta on several tracks. Laugart's son Alex Tosca is in charge of the vital clave on which the rhythm swings and sways, accentuated by the discerning congas of Luis Quintero.

It is in the rumba numbers as "Sabor Una Tumba Una Rumba," "Nadie Se Salva de la Rumba," and the classic son montuno "La Mujer de Antonio," where Laugart displays her talent as a natural born rumbera. This is a distinct style of soulful, rhythmic, Afro-Cuban singing that you either have it or you don't. No middle ground here. Her work on the intimate boleros as "Veinte Años," is vintage vocalizing at its best, this song is dedicated to her father who taught her the song as a child.

Laugart is extremely comfortable singing trova music which was is based around a vocal and guitar arrangement, with soft percussion, exactly what is presented here. She paid her dues on this genre and she goes back to her roots with songs like "Las Perlas de tu Boca," "Y Tu Que Haz Hecho," and "Ausencia." These songs are just as romantic as the boleros, but the beat is slightly enhanced, somewhat resembling the danzon, which permeates much of Cuban music.

Tears and Rumba is a passionate vocal production stripped down to the bare bones, relying solely on Xiomara Laugart's instinctive ability to interpret the songs with the required authenticity and sentiment. She does not disappoint.

Track Listing: Las Perlas de tu Boca; Sabor Una Tumba Una Rumba; Sitieria; Viente Años; Nadie Se Salva de la Rumba; Reclamo Mistico; Juramento; La Mujer de Antonio; Y Tu Que Haz Hecho; Ausencia; Descarga Xiomara; Reclamo Mistico Alt.

Personnel: Xiomara Laugart: lead vocals; Axel Tosca Laugart: vocals, clave; Román Lajara: guitar, tres; Luis Quintero: congas, percussion; Yunior Terry: bass; Javier Porta: flute, vocals; Gerardo Contino: vocals.

Title: Tears And Rumba | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Chesky Records

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