Album Review: Mista Savona presents - Havana Meets Kingston part 2
by Gardy Stein
In the last five years, few albums have captured my attention as lastingly and comprehensively as Havana Meets Kingston back in 2017. Intriguingly new, this exciting mixture of Cuban and Jamaican musical traditions has left a strong impression due to its unprecedented fusion of Reggae, Ragga, Rocksteady, Son, Timba and Salsa.
After the roaring success of this unique musical project, producer Jake Savona not only organized a world tour with most of the musicians involved in 2018, but also planned his return to the Caribbean right away. Again, he visited important hot-spots in Jamaica and enthused both younger singers and veteran vocalists as well as a choice of instrumentalists to participate in the project. Now, part two is out (released via Baco Records/Cumbancha), and it shines as brilliantly as its predecessor.
Recorded at Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston and, for the most part, at Egrem Studios in Havana, this special place still breathing the '50s analogue magic has lent its unique sonic touch to the music. Mista Savona said about it that "the Cubans told me an angel lives in the studio and that she blesses the music recorded there", and blessed this music is indeed. I'm not even sure if it makes much sense to talk about each individual song in detail (as is normally the task of an album review), since this oeuvre is so overwhelming in its entirety. While listening, you just feel that everybody involved gave their best and enjoyed the collective journey, a vibrant energy that runs through all the 15 tracks included.
Still, let's take a look at some selected highlights (and, please, feel free to comment which is your favorite piece below!). A good point to start here is the first song, of course, entitled The Fire From Africa. The booming Nyabinghi drums remind us that people living in both Cuba and Jamaica have common African roots, and Micah Shemaiah gets to the heart of this fact when he sings "To the motherland, I wanna be living in Africa – that's where I'm from!" Other voices heard here are The Gideon, Anyilena and PuchoMan, who adds some Spanish Raggamuffin flavor.
Another powerful piece is Clinton Fearon's Human Chain. The former Gladiators singer has lost nothing of his vocal magnitude, and the accompanying video brings some urgent images to our attention. Other visuals that are already out for you to enjoy are Siempre Si with Randy Valentine, Brenda Navarrete and Dayán Carrera Fernández, the latter also featuring in Guarachará, Lágrimas Negras sung by Beatriz Márquez, and the title track aka La Canción, again with the amazing Brenda Navarrete.
Make sure you listen to Lo Que Quieres to hear what a traditional Láud sounds like (masterfully played by Barbarito Torres), to the funky Beat Con Flow featuring Cimafunk and, most of all, to Reggae Y Son, a kind of HMK-allstars track uniting singers Pepe Ordaz, Maikel Ante, La Armada, Prince Alla, Randy Valentine, Telmary and El Medico with instrumentalists Sly & Robby, Oliver Valdés, Bopee, Cotó, Yaroldy Abreu, Bongo Herman, Changuito, Julito Padrón, David Suárez, Juan Carlos, Marín Elósedui, Antonio Leal and Jake Savona himself (and many more – check the credits!). Oh, the sweetness from A to Z!
The final song, brilliantly delivered by Prince Alla and accompanied by Earl "Chinna" Smith on guitar, reminds us that We Are One despite the differences in physical appearance, culture and languages. We are one in sharing this time and space on earth, and we are made to meet, exchange ideas, strive for a better world - and enjoy music like this together!
Havana Meets Kingston Part 2 is everything Part 1 promised and more, a colorful, enchanting and intoxicating journey to some of the most talented musicians the two islands of Jamaica and Cuba have to offer. It is also a living monument for Robbie Shakespeare, Winston "Bopee" Bowen and Jacinto Herrera, who were essential in the development of this project, but have spread their wings before seeing it released. As for all of us blessed to be alive, don't let the summer start without this extraordinary treat, and, if you can, catch these masters on tour!
Mista Savona presents - Havana Meets Kingston Part 2
DIGITAL RELEASE / VINYL / CD [Baco Records, Cumbancha]
Release date: 06/03/2022
01. Micah Shemaiah, PuchoMan, The Gideon & Anyilena - The Fire From Africa
02. Brenda Navarrete, Dayán Carrera Fernández & Randy Valentine - Siempre Si
03. Dayán Carrera Fernández - Guarachará
04. Clinton Fearon - The Human Chain
05. Stevie Culture - Solutions (We Can Do It)
06. Brenda Navarrete - Havana Meets Kingston (La Canción)
07. Barbarito Torres & Rolando Luna - Lo Que Quieres
08. Beatriz Márquez - Lágrimas Negras
09. Cimafunk - Beat Con Flow
10. Micah Shemaiah - Destiny
11. Bopee Bowen - Kingston Nights
12. Pepe Ordaz, Maikel Ante, La Armada, Prince Alla, Randy Valentine, Brenda Navarrete, Telmary & El Médico - Reggae Y Son
13. The Jewels - Slave Trade
14. Solis & Julito Padrón - Juramento
15. Prince Alla - We Are One