Cuban music is renowned the world over for its alluring mix of jazz, African rhythms, and a blend of styles such as son and even rock, that the island has well and truly claimed as its own. Perhaps few bands in modern Cuban history have come to embody the nation’s musical scene as completely as Los Van Van, a product of the famous Cuban Revolution!
Created in 1969, Los Van Van emerged under the inspired leadership of Juan Formell, who formerly worked as musical director of a Cuban charanga orchestra. Los Van Van’s work was, and still is, truly pioneering, and they are even credited with the creation of a distinct Cuban musical style, the Songo!
Los Van Van’s music tells the story of Cuba itself, from its conquest by the Spanish to its modern, turbulent history – all the while celebrating the vivacity, toughness and community that defines Cuba today!
Let’s take a listen to one of Los Van Van’s most recent songs, Al Paso. Al Paso was released to coincide with Los Van Van’s 50th anniversary! While sadly the group's founder Juan Formell passed away in 2014, Samuel Formell, his son, has now proudly taken his place. If you look closely, you'll see lots of archival footage from the 70's, 80's and 90's of Los Van Van performing. What a tribute!
Here's a clip of the group from 1973, where you can hear Juan Formell starting to form the distinctive Songo sound. And check out that wonderful 70's Cuban fashion! If only it were shot in colour!
Already can’t wait to find out more about the wonderful island of Cuba? Take a look at Penny’s travel blog, which has all the info you need to get ready for a trip to La Habana and beyond!
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By Sasha Gillies-Lekakis and Penelope Ray
September 12, 2019
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