to banging newies. Tried and tested on a host of Latin dance floors, it covers old and new Cuban, New York, Puerto Rico and Senegal. Excellent sleeve notes complete with drawings and description of difference between Latin salsa styles.

5. Salsa Clasica: A Taste Of Classic Latin Flavours (Nascente NSCD 055) This is a back-to- roots selection of the salsa dura or salsa gorda, the old style salsa favoured by many Latin DJs. Includes key artists Cuco Valoy and Johnny Ventura.

6. Salsa Moderna: A Taste Of New World Latin Flavours (Nascente NSCD 039) DJ John Armstrong selects his choice of the melodic modern sounds, sometimes called salsa romantica/ sensual/ erotica. While I’m not sure about the erotic (for that see Rendez Vous below), songs like Tito Gomez’ 'Volver’ are certainly romantic.

7. African Salsa-Rumba: Rendez Vous (Syllart/Sterns CDS 7037) Simply one of the best buys ever, every track here matters as the kings of African music offer their own Afro-Cuban clasSic 50unds With the most dazzling orchestrations and compelling emotional v0ices. This has to be the most erotic way into salsa, allowmg even the nowce or non-dancer the chance to shuffle round African style. Cape Verde’s Tam Tam 2000's 'Me vuelvo guaiiro’ is stupefyingly beautiful, as is late Congolese king Franco's version of ’Eddie Palmieri's Cafe', and Senegal’s Rudy Gomis’ ’Gatax’.

8. Ay, Que Ryko Latino! (RLCD 1010) From the opening track, Truco 8r Zaperoko’s version of ’El cuarto de Tula', this is a killer selection of artists from the Ryko label stable. It includes established names and those to watch, from Cubanismo to Jimmy Bosch, Plena Libre to Jose Alberto ’El Canario'.

9. Cuba Classics 3: Diablo al infierno (Luaka Bop 72438-49028-2-7) With DaVid Byrne Just re- launching his Luaka Bop label on its tenth anniversary, this is a timely 'new’ buy of Cuban classics. Some of them are hard to find anywhere, particularly the scintillating early lrakere 'Bacalao con pan’. It’s a rogue album as there is more here to listen than dance to, but who can resist the rock-trova implications of Carlos Varela's radical ’Gurllermo Tell’ (William Tell) which captures the view of the present y0ung generation of Cubans?

10. Latinas - Women Of Latin America (Putumayo PUTU 172-2) Continumg the rogue theme, With so many men’s v0ices in focus, its good to know there are women to celebrate too, and this disc brings together key names including Afro- Peruwan diva Susana Baca, Argentina’s Mercedes Sosa and Colombia’s Toto La Momposina. Beautiful.


1. Sidestepper: More Grip (PalmCD 2049-2) MusiCian/producer Richard Blair working With a posse of top Bogota (Colombian) muSiCians (ex- working With Carlos Vives; then Bloque) who have sampled classic (mostly) Cuban songs, processing the syncopated swing, groovmg beats With brass, percussion and vocals to stunning effect.

2. Rodolfo ‘Nava' Barrera: Nava (RLCD1015) Puerto Rico’s Rodolfo 'Nava’ Barrera switches from writing hit songs for others to an eclectic album of his own modern sounds rooted in slow plena and bomba: mellow, seductive, his warm voice holds you as it insinuates over a sensual, techno layered mix of influences. Gorgeous mUSIC that makes love to you.

3. Van Van: Llego . . . Van Van (Van Van Is Here . . (Havana Caliente import) For 30 years unchallenged as Cuba's top band, With this 2000 Grammy Award-Winning album, Van Van capture the cutting edge dance sounds of the Havana barrios. The front line of singers blow yOur mind as you dance to the complex grooves of piano/bass- driven rumba/timba, son/songo rhythms.

4. Ruben Blades: Tiempos (Time) (Sony EPC 494410 2) One of the most Significant of Latin America’s contemporary musicians and poets, the lawyer turned salsa star who stood for President of Panama, has created an album as groundbreaking as his Buscando America was for the 1980s. His genius is to match consummate lyrics, as politically, philosophically and deeply reflective as ever, With mu5ic that intermingles elements from contemporary classical and Latin music With the heart of the Americas. Most covetable disc of 2000.

5. Celia Cruz: Mi vida es cantar (RMD 82068) The vitality of New York salsa queen Celia Cruz is inimitable. In her 70s, she shows she can give anyone a run for their money, while her critique of macho double standards in ’El note quiere na’ (He Doesn’t Love You At All) shows her abreast (unWittingly?) of a new current in Latin female assertiveness. Meanwhile, despite Adalberto Alvarez’ summer hit cover of 'La vida es un carnaval' (Life is a Carnival), Cruz remains intransigent about returning to her native Cuba while Castro remains in power.

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6. Orishas: A Io Cubano (Chrysalis 5270822) Havana's hottest and hippest outfit, working out of Europe, offer tributes to Afro-Cuban deities, the orishas, hip hop/rap style, With plenty of samples and re-mixing for the cutting edge club scene.

7. Salsa Celtica: The Great Scottish Latin Adventure (Greentrax 02c0 7005) Scotland’s own, the guys who brought salsa to the live scene, With a set of superb songs and original arrangements With more than a nod to Latin Jazz. Producer Jim Sutherland weaves Wild and delicate detail into the Celtic edge. SyIVia Rae doubles as a modern day Marilyn Monroe, licking the ear through an old-fashioned mike With Venezuelan sonero Carlos Pena improwsing teasineg on the other side.

8. Cubanismo!: Mardi Gras Mambo (Hannibal HNCD 1441) Cubanismol, led by trumpeter supremo Jesus Alemany, came together With the Yockamo All-Stars creating a tasty ’muSical gumbo’, a mix of Cuban With New Orleans. Alemar'iy’s fourth album takes bold musical risks, epitomised by the elegiac ’Shallow Water Surte', which incorporates the age-old fav0urite ’lko lko' song, movmg into a Cuban rumba chant With gospel and Carnival influences. Terrific.

9. Rubén Gonzalez: Chanchullo (World CichIt, WCD 060) Eighty-two and this only his second solo record, Cuban piano maestro Ruben Gonzalez, turns in a brilliant set playing like an eighteen-year-old supported by his Cuban colleagues of Buena Vista Social Club: bassist ’Cachaito’ LOpez (his own solo album is due out later this year), trumpeter Guaiiro Mirabal, trombonist Jesus 'Aguaie’ Ramos With guests that include Ibrahim Ferrer. Stunning, laid-back classics. 10 Alfredo de la Fe: Latitudes A Stimulating, eclectic album from an experienced, innovative Cuban musiCian long based in New York, playing not Just salsa, but, the Violin-led styles known as charanga. Dela Fe’s electrified Violin, With bags of trombone support, moves easily between rich Vintage classic arrangements to Latin Jazz to rap styles. Moods are gloriously varied and rich, Just savour the version of Chucho Valdes' ’Xiomara’ and the sensual montuno 'Somos el nuevo milenio’. Infectious.

D] James Cornbe, who works in the world music section of Virgin Records, Edinburgh is an invaluable source of information on new Latin recordings Another excellent source is Stems, 74/75 Warren Street, London WlP SPA, UK, 0207 387 5550

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