When it comes to Ska Cubano, rarely has the expression “a match made in heaven” been so apropos. Take classic rhythms from two of the world’s most musically influential islands, Jamaica and Cuba, mash them together like mint and sugar, add ample of amounts of intoxicating melodies and a dash of jest; the result is a magical musical cocktail that has been setting dance floors ablaze from London to Tokyo.
The idea of creating a Cuban ska band originated with Peter A. Scott, a British entrepreneur and music lover whose business ventures brought him regularly to Jamaica and Cuba. Scott invited Natty Bo, a renowned London ska singer and devotee of all things retro, to travel with him to the city of Santiago de Cuba, often called “the cradle of Cuban music” because of its influential role in the development of popular Cuban music, to record with some of the best local musicians. Natty Bo, also a popular London DJ, was an avid collector of old Cuban 78s, and suggested bringing other flavors into the mix such as Colombian cumbia, Jamaican mento and Trinidadian calypso.
While in Santiago, Natty Bo heard Cuban crooner Beny Billy, the living reincarnation of the legendary Beny Moré, belting it out in a bar, and knew then and there he had found his vocal counterpart on the project. Back in London, Natty Bo formed a band featuring the leading maestros of Cuban and Jamaican music, and the group set about bringing the irresistible Ska Cubano sound to the concert stage.
The rest, as they say, is history, or at least, historical revisionism, as Ska Cubano posits a world where the music of Caribbean cousins Jamaica, Cuba and beyond developed a closer kinship back in the day before reggae and salsa shook the globe.