CET's Favorite Cuban Artists of 2019

Music is ubiquitous in Cuba and Cuban culture, and an integral part of all travel to the island. Here are our recommendations of Cuban music, new and old — both to get you in the mood for your Cuba trip and to stay connected upon return. Maybe you heard a song in a car or on a street corner and aren’t sure where to look for it — chances are, it’s on our list.

BUENA FE

With extremely talented musicians and composers, Buena Fe sits a notch above modern Cuban pop blasting in buses and boteros.

We’re listening to: Papel en Blanco, No Juegues Con Mi Soledad

Buena Vista Social Club

A classic that has withstood the test of time. They are who you think of when you first think Cuban music.

We’re listening to: El Cuarto de Tula, Guajira, Esas No Son Cubanos, Chan Chan

CAMILA CABELLO

Born in Havana, Cabello sings homage to her hometown in the catchiest modern pop song about Cuba. You probably know it…

We’re listening to: Havana ft. Young Thug

CARLOS VARELA

A new-age trovador firmly positioned in Cuban musical history, Carlos Varela continues to create acoustic sounds with soul-stirring lyrics. “The Poet of Havana” goes on tour in Spain next month to tour his new album, El Grito Mudo.

We’re listening to: Una Palabra, Siete, Jalisco Park, Como Los Peces, Habaname, Guillermo Tell

CHUCHO VALDES

Chucho Valdes is a quintessential name in Cuban jazz. A Cuban pianist, composer and arranger, Chucho continues creating and performing music around the world.

Catch him on tour: Sept 22 in Winters, CA, Oct 6 in San Francisco, and Oct 12 in DC.

Chocolate MC

Vulgar and not exactly a model citizen, but many of the hits sounding off in the streets are authored by this artist, whose lyrics also represent an erosion of Cuba’s social fabric.

We’re blasting: Bajanda

Cimafunk

It’s impossible to overstate the effect Cimafunk has on live audiences. A groove unknown to mankind. We love him, and his 10+ piece band, but you already know that.

We’re listening to: La Papa, Parar el Tiempo, Ponte Pa’ Lo Tuyo

CUCU DIAMANTES

Cucu’s new album Pecados de Picasso is spunky and fun — a mix of classic Cuban sounds and the voice by which she’s known best.

We’re listening to: her new album Pecados de Picasso

Dayme Arocena

With a new album Sonocardiogram, belting Afro Cuban jazz artist Dayme Arocena shines. Her shows are one-of-a-kind and her music is well known all over the world.

Catch her on tour: Nov 10 in San Francisco, Nov 13 in Philadelphia, Nov 14 in DC, Nov 16 in NYC, and Nov 17 in Boston.

Dayramir Gonzalez

Dayramir is a jazz pianist and composer who has broken into the “pantheon” of elite and Cuban jazz musicians.

Hear him play: on Oct 24 in Brooklyn

Diana Fuentes

Latin Grammy nominated Cuban singer-songwriter Diana Fuentes stands out in a huge field of Latin pop music.

We’re listening to: La Fortuna, La Vida Me Cambio

DJ Edgaro / Productor en Jefe

This Cuban American DJ always brings Havana to wherever he’s playing, whether it’s New York, Miami. or Mio y Tuyo.

We’re listening to: Fundamento, Amor Internacional ft. Dayramir, Despierta, Apenas ft. Carlos Varela

DJ JIGUE

Mixing electronic sounds with Afro-Cuban beats, DJ Jigue has brought new life into the Cuban music of today.

We’re listening to: Ponte de Pie

EL INDIVIDUO

One of Havana’s best rappers today, we love his fresh sounds and complex lyrics.

We’re listening to: Baila, Luz

EME ALFONSO

Afro-Cuba singer-songwriter Eme Alfonso has won Cubadisco awards for her electronic sounds which pay homage to her heritage.

We’re listening to: Voy, Libre

Gente de Zona

Some of Cuba’s most famous modern reggaetoneros, Gente de Zona leads Latin music today. They recently played for hundreds of thousands on the malecon.

We’re listening to: their new album Otra Cosa

Habana d’Primera

With lead Alexander Abreu, Habana D’Primera takes classic salsa music to another level. Great party music.

We’re listening to: Me Dicen Cuba, La Bailarina, Que Sorpresa, Pasaporte

Haydee Milanes

Milanes returns to her roots with a new album AMOR she created with her musician father Pablo Milanes.

We’re listening to: Para Vivir

IbeyI

These French-Cuban twins mix electronic, soul, R&B, and downtempo in three languages. They’re big names in Latin music as well, and their recognition has crossed genres, which features in Beyonce’s Lemonade.

We’re listening to: River, Deathless, Me Voy

Leoni Torres

We still don’t have Soledad out of our heads.

Catch him on tour: Sept 12 in Atlanta, Sept 13 in Orlando, Sept 21 in Fort Lauderdale

Los Van Van

A classic Cuban band of today, you can’t go wrong with the sounds of salsa and Tropical Latin.

We’re listening to: La Maquinaria, El Negro Esta Cocinando, Temba Tumba Timba, Somos Cubanos, Sandunguera

ORISHAS

The rap/Latin trio left Cuba almost a decade ago to pursue musical freedom — and came back for the first time in 2018 for a rocking concert at Havana World Music Festival.

We’re listening to: A Lo Cubano, Cuba Isla Bella, Mani, Cosita Buena

Reyna y Real

Reyna y Real are a female rap duo who flip machismo, race and gender stereotypes upside down with their playful but cutting lyrics about Cuban society today and their place in it.

We’re listening to: Suavecito, Por Si Las Moscas, Caminando, Que Se Queme El Arroz

Rhythms del Mundo

Rhythms del Mundo is an album which features a lineup of all-star Afro-Cuban musicians, originally compiled for a charity cause that began in 2006.

Ricardo Arjona and Alejandro Sanz

Neither are Cuban but both are deeply loved in Cuba and have some classics about the island, including Te Canto Un Son and Arjona’s Puente.

We’re listening to: Corazón Partío, Mi Persona Favorita

SIGRID

New to the jazz and electronic scene in Havana, Sigrid’s fresh sounds have us wanting more.

X Alfonso

Cuba’s leading rock artist is also the creator of Havana’s famed Fabrica de Arte Cubano. His music mixes rock with a uniquely Cuban sound.

We’re listening to: Arenas de Soledad, Reverse, Habana

YISSY GARCIA

With her band Bandancha, Yissy has traveled the world sharing percussion-led Cuban jazz.

We’re listening to: Mr. Miller, Arroz Con Mango

YOMIL Y EL DANY

We had to add these guys, as some of the founders of “Trapton” — trap reggaeton. Catch their sounds in clubs, boteros and on Centro Habana street corners.

We’re listening to: Normalmente, Tengo, No Me Afecta, Pa’ Tra

Isabel Albee