Afro-Cuban All Stars
Without the Afro-Cuban All Stars, the world would know a lot less about the musical riches of Cuba. In 1996, popular tres player and bandleader Juan de Marcos González recruited an unparalleled assortment of his country's best musicians for a series of sessions in Havana. They made three albums, including 'Buena Vista Social Club' and 'Introducing ... Rubén González,' that became springboards for Cuban music's modern renaissance. The third album was the Afro-Cuban All Stars' astounding 'A Toda Cuba Le Gusta,' a magnetic survey of Cuba's past, reinvigorated by the energy of the present.
Skipping between bolero and rumba, salsa and timba, the big, bold band offered an unbridled homage to the country's magnificent prerevolutionary orchestras. Two decades later, González remains Cuba's essential talent scout, and his Afro-Cuban All Stars are a powerhouse of sound, emissaries for their country's culture. By recruiting young Cuban musicians, González has tirelessly refreshed the band, taking abroad emerging trends from home. A series of international treks and live albums (most recently, the ebullient 'Absolutely Live II - Viva México!') prompted Billboard to dub them "the consummate Cuban touring band." Afro-Cuban All Stars concerts are communal parties, testifying to Cuba's kinetic musical spirit.