Mista Savona - Havana Meets Kingston

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Melbourne producer Jake Savona brings together two rich musical cultures

Jamaica and Cuba are a short flight from one another, a distance of a few hundred kilometres.

Still, despite both having strong musical heritages – in each case, the nation's sonic influence has extended far beyond its borders – there has been little collaboration between the artistic communities of the two countries. 

Melbourne producer Jake Savona, AKA Mista Savona, is endeavouring to change that.

A decade out from his breakthrough third record, Melbourne Meets Kingston, which brought dub and reggae artists from those two disparate locations together to collaborate, he has done the same with musicians from these two Caribbean islands.

The collaboration took inspiration from Buena Vista Social Club, the late 90s project designed to revive interest in the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. (It worked: the resulting record sold millions of copies and scored a Grammy.) That inspiration is evident from the get-go on Havana Meets Kingston, which opens with a version of ‘Chan Chan’, probably BVSC’s best-known work and a classic of the son Cubano style.

 

Havana Meets Kingston, though, goes further, exploring the various traditional elements of both Cuban and Jamaican sound. And while elder statesmen do feature (including Barbarito Torres, of BVSC), it brings to the front a range of new voices. Those include Randy Valentine, a Jamaican-born, London-based MC and producer who has worked with Major Lazer, among others. He appears, along with Cuban singer Solis, on the excellent first single, ‘Carnival’.

Various voices are represented, across Spanish, English and Jamaican Patois. One of the strongest belongs to Aza Lineage, a Kingston singer, who with Birdz-I appears on ‘In The Ghetto (Where We’re From)’, which has a southern gospel feel, and sometimes sounds reminiscent of Lauryn Hill or Queen Latifah.

The rich offering we’ve come to expect from Mista Savona – deep basslines, strong melodies, collaborations that simultaneously push past and respect traditions – are all here. This is a bright, engaging collection of tracks that honours the distinctive musical styles of Jamaica and Cuba. 

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