Highlife World Series: Cuba – Preview

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Taken from the Auntie Flo Soundcloud page:


“Esa and I (along with Shingai Shoniwa) arrived in Cuba in Feb 2014 to perform live at the inaugural Havana World Music Festival. Partly inspired by Mala’s 2013 album ‘Mala in Cuba’, we managed to book a couple of days of studio time in Havana, hosted by the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica.

On the Saturday evening, we were invited to perform at “Villalon” – a weekly free party open for all and regularly attracting crowds of 2000+. A big soundsystem is erected in a public square and the local house DJs play music for 4 hours or so every week. We would be the 2nd non-Cuban act (after Mala) to perform and, as we were due to play live as well as DJ, were required to be interviewed in order to ensure we would be the right fit for the party.

Having past this ‘test’, word spread by text message that we were playing so we turned up to find well over 4000 people had turned up, a lot of them wearing British flags in support (a sight we’d never seen before!). The gig went well and over the course of the day and night, we met a whole host of local musicians who we invited to the studio later the week.

We didn’t know who we would see at the studio but were pleasantly surprised that a handful of the musicians we’d met had made it – amazing talent on trumpet, vocals, percussion and keys. In the evening after the first days session, I chopped up some of the percussion and trumpets we’d recorded and made a simple loop. When we returned the next day, I gave the loop to Eric Alejandro and asked him to come up with a vocal for it.

We’d agreed to appear on Cuban Music Television later that afternoon so were limited with time. With only ten minutes to go of the final session, Eric said he’d come up with the lyrics for the loop. So we set up some mics and played the loop for six minutes. He recorded the vocal in one take and absolutely smashed it. We managed to beg for another ten minutes of studio time so we could record a second take and ended up being able to add trumpets too. The track became ‘Die Bailando’, a 12 minute Rhumba-jam.

Many thanks to everyone at the Laborotorio, to the British Council, British Embassy and to the musicians who performed on the release. In particular, Julian, Rhys, Will @ Lake of Stars Festival, Hugo, Usmani @ Casa Vitrales, Erlend and everyone at HWM, Teresa, Shingai, Eric, Yissy, Jorge, Julio and everyone at the LNME.

Brian d’Souza / Auntie Flo Feb 2015.

The Highlife World Series is a collaborative series of releases by UK-based Brian d’Souza aka Auntie Flo and Esa Williams. The first three parts are to be released in quick succession in early 2015, beginning with Cuba, followed by Kenya and finishing with Uganda. Each release features original songs produced in collaboration with local musicians. All proceeds from each release will be sent back to the respective countries in order to fund further musical production costs in years to come. We will also be seeking various ways to distribute the music in each country so the music is freely available for the musicians to use at home.”

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