21/10/2022Iconic French Producer GUTS Releases Brand-New Full-Length Tribute To Afro-Cuban Culture

Had it not been for the pandemic, the music currently streaming out of our speaker system would probably have a different spin to it. But that, of course, is somewhat speculative. Fact is, in 2020, French DJ, beatmaker and producer GUTS had a new album lined up to be entirely recorded on the island of Cuba. Due to strict travel regulations, however, the itinerary was altered accordingly and GUTS decided to set up camp on the West African coast instead of in the Caribbean. In October of 2021, GUTS and his team relocated to the La Boutique studio in Dakar, Senegal, where "Estrellas" began to take shape.

As such, his latest 17-track release on Heavenly Sweetness is the result of three worlds,"three musical delegations," retracing the roots of Afro-Cuban music through covers and original compositions, recorded over a course of 17 days by a total of 25 artists. Exploring ancestral sounds, mixing genres and reconnecting cultures, "Estrellas" weaves a delicate tapestry of common ground und transatlantic understanding, telling stories of both "resilience" and "pleasure"

"Cuba has a long African history. Under mass enslavement and the Transatlantic trade, Africans were forced from their homelands, against their will, taking their music along with them. Merging throughout the centuries, taking on European influences, led to the birth of a distinctive Afro-Cuban musical tradition. Highly percussive, brass-based, simmering, full of danceable rhythms. The spirit etched into thousands of recordings, forever turning towards Africa. The departure point here is not to keep things the same. Rather, a return to the source enacts a loop – much the same as those providing the foundations for hip-hop beats," the release notes detail.

United by a genuine love for music, the Cuban, the African and the European delegations set about relighting a flame to illuminate their musical past and break down boundaries in the present. The Cuban family included pianist Cucurucho Valdés (the nephew of Chucho Valdés), the voices of singer and percussionist Brenda Navarrete, Akemis Carrera (the Aretha Franklin of 'Santéria Cubana'), Havana rapper El Tipo Este and Santiago de Cuban elder José Padilla as well as beatmaker/producer/multi-instrumentalist Kumar Sublevao-Beat (a Cuban from Europe). Representing the African side were guitarist René Sowatche (Orchestra Baobab), bassist Christian Obam, a Beninese-Cameroonian-Congolese brass section and the voices of Assane Mboup and Alpha Dieng. As for GUTS' longstanding European accomplices, the diverse lineup features Mr Gib, David Walters, Florian Pellissier, Cyril Atef, Pat Kalla, Djeudjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson, Al Quetz, El Gato Negro and Arnold Moueza.

"Estrellas" is an extensive almost 90-minute listen that oozes soul and exudes the magical spirit of togetherness. Despite the inherent diversity of the project itself, the sound is dense, cohesive and rich in detail, possibly a testament to the creative vision of GUTS, one he was seemingly able to communicate and coordinate to all involved, without infringing on their individual artistic integrity. And the accompanying liner notes offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse, where said artists share their personal, track-by-track impressions of the recording sessions. As per usual, this latest Pura Vida release is brimful of ideas with something on it for everyone. Thus, the title, pointing to a galaxy of stars, singular yet interconnected, ancient yet ever so present, shining as bright as ever.

Stream the full release below and check out the neat album visualiser below.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom