Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

The promoters of these Cuban musicians sent me a CD. From the moment I started to play it I knew this was something powerful.

Click on the image above to hear a sample of Madera Limpia’s music.

Madera Limpia captures the soul and power of the youth movement in Cuba and specifically in Eastern Cuba. The band is from Guantanamo, a very rural area of Cuba.

The name is known for having the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay but that really has no effect on the people or culture in rural Guantanamo. So, there aren’t any tourist hotels or attractions, just Cuba the way it’s been for many decades.

Yasel Gonzalez Rivera and Gerald Thomas Collymore of Madera Limpia are from Guantanamo. Their first album was released as the soundtrack to the award-winning 2004 documentary Paraiso, a kind of road movie about their life in Guantanamo. Their new album La Corona features Gerald’s and Yasel’s characteristic blend of local acoustic traditions and urban Latino youth culture that will make you dance while being firmly rooted in the traditions of Cuban music.

“My rap is an expression of what young people feel in Cuba”, explains Yasel, “what they live, what happens everyday.”


Heavy percussion meets melancholic tres patterns, an occasional tuba takes over the bass part (La lenta) and all throughout Yasel and Gerald flow effortlessly between rap, reggae/dancehall, reggaeton or rootsy Changui, the style of Cuban music which originated in the early 19th century in the eastern region of Guantánamo Province. “Rap and reggae work against the beat”, explains Gerald, “this has a lot to do with the Changui. I try to mix both in one rhythm, because what Changui lacks, hip-hop has it.” Gerald also arranges the music and works with the guest musicians featured on the album: ‘El Puro’ Ángel Rubio Espinosa (Cuban tres guitar), Eudys Morales Ramírez (bass), Gil Guillermo Henderson Ledesma (trumpet), Brian Roberto Hui Romero (guitar), Ernesto García Méndez (violin), Maticos and Osmany Mengana Bayart (both percussions).

Find Madera Limpia on Amazon