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Post Mambo in Western Cuba
Post Mambo Music Seminars - Trips to Cuba

Ned Sublette

A co-founder of Qbadisc and a producer with Afropop Worldwide, Ned is an artist in his own right and created the cowboy rumba style, a fusion of rumba and country & western. He is a University of New Mexico graduate and a 2003-2004 fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, as well as a 2004-2005 Tulane Rockefeller Humanities Fellow in New Orleans. He has led a number of music and culture seminars for Americans in Cuba and is the producer of the 18 part Cuba Connection series on PRI's Afropop Worldwide as well as the co-creator of the current APWW "Hip Deep" series.

Ned will always be remembered among los Muñequitos fans for his stellar role in getting them well known and on tour.

Cowboy Rumba was #1 on a number of latin stations and is currently (8/9) #11 in New Mexico at Amazon.com. From Rykodisc:

Ned Sublette was born in 1951 in Lubbock, Texas.  Bilingual in English and Spanish since childhood, he grew up in Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico and moved to New York in 1976. His range of musical experience is unusually broad, ranging from original musicological field work in New Mexico, to conservatory study in classical guitar and composition, to aggressive loud-guitar bands, to cutting-edge Latin music.  In the downtown New York new music scene of the 70s and 80s, he worked with artists ranging from John Cage to La Monte Young to Glenn Branca to Peter Gordon's Love of Life Orchestra.  In 1982, he started The Ned Sublette Band ("It wasn't country punk," he recalls, "because all the musicians could really play") with a gig at CBGBs. He became a fixture on the downtown New York club circuit, playing hundreds of gigs with a rotating cast of New York's best players at such notorious and legendary nightspots as Danceteria, the Pyramid Cocktail Lounge, Tramps (the old one) and the Lone Star Cafe.  

By the mid-80s he gravitated toward the salsa scene ("It was the best music in town," he says) and his inspirations grew increasingly Latin.  In January 1990, he traveled to Cuba for the first time and was inspired to co-found Qbadisc, the first American record label dedicated to marketing contemporary Cuban music in the U.S. He was soon recognized as a major U.S. advocate for Cuban music, introducing American audiences to Cuban artists as diverse as Los Muñequitos De Matanzas and NG La Banda as well as Celina González, Issac Delgado, Carlos Varela and Orlando "Maraca" Valle.  In 1998,he also produced the outstanding debut album by the New York-based Puerto Rican group Viento De Agua, and for seven years, he served as senior co-producer of Afropop Worldwide, heard over Public Radio International. He is currently working on a book about Cuban music.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist-bandleader-producer, Ned Sublette is one of the most original figures on the New York music scene, and COWBOY RUMBA (PALMCD2020-2), his debut solo album on Palm Pictures, is equally, and exquisitely, unique.  COWBOY RUMBA is just what the name implies: Ned's lyrics, compositions and vocals combine with a dream team of all-star musicians from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the New York salsa scene and . . . Texas, for an utterly danceable ride.

Post Mambo Music Seminars

Ned is the author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. He imparts his knowledge in the Post Mambo Music Seminars:

Registration is open now for the next PCMS, #7: Los Portadores to western Cuba, March 9-19. Besides Yoruba, Kongo, Arará, and more, we'll hear Los Muñequitos, Los Van Van and Haydée Milanés, among others. (Here's my Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep episode about this route: Cuban Counterpoint of Tobacco and Sugar: Sacred Musical Spaces in Western Cuba.) (And here's a new Haydée Milanés track in duo with Lila Downs: Pablo Milanés's "La Vida No Vale Nada.")

We'll be going on #8: Oriente (eastern Cuba) July 1-10, with a base in Santiago de Cuba and visits to cities including Baracoa, Guantánamo, and what I call the "Chan Chan" route.

#9: El Rumbazo #2, our second annual rumba immersion event, will be Nov. 8-12 (Veterans' Day weekend) in Havana and Matanzas.

Contact: postmambo@gmail.com

Articles/Artículostop

Cuban Counterpoint of Tobacco and Sugar: Sacred Musical Spaces in Western Cuba  1/31/2017 Afropop: "Borrowing the title from Cuban polymath Fernando Ortiz, producer Ned Sublette takes a group of travelers, including you, to multiple sites in western Cuba to analyze the musical impact of what Ortiz called the "Cuban counterpoint" of tobacco and sugar. We'll hear endangered species of drums in mountain farms and sugar towns, drilling down into the deep culture of the Afro-Cuban world. We'll hear sacred drumming as handed down from Kongo sources, from Yorubaland, from Dahomey, and more, in sites that are indelibly stamped with the imprints of Africa, above all in music. We'll hear an incredible poetic improviser, go to a block party in Matanzas, and talk to our guest scholar, Latin Grammy-winning record producer Caridad Diez, about the power of rumba and its meaning in Cuban society in the wake of UNESCO's designation of rumba as world heritage."

Fidel Castro: A First-Person Account of the Day the Music Stopped in Cuba  12/2/2016 Billboard: by Ned Sublette - "“I think [Fidel’s death] affected many people more than they thought it would,” a 77-year-old Cuban told me in conversation. In the Hotel Meliá Havana, where Haila Mompié’s cabaret appearance stopped when the news arrived, a woman at the desk choked back tears as she checked in tourists. The next day, a friend’s phone conversation with one of her work colleagues terminated because the man she was talking to was crying too hard."

Yoruba Drums and Cuban Batá  5/23/2016 KCRW: "I had my brain seriously stretched by a recent podcast of Afropop Worldwide. It was a superb program about “drum speech”–a fascinating subject that has interested ethnomusicologists for a long time. Ned Sublette writes about it in his masterful study, Cuba and its Music: From the First Drum to the Mambo. He’s part the Afropop Worldwide team. I wanted to share just a few things that I learned from this terrific program on how drums can serve as a surrogate for speech in Africa and Cuba."

Ancient Text Messages: Batá Drums in a Changing World  2/15/2016 Afropop Worldwide: "In Africa, drums don’t only play rhythms, they send messages. “Ancient Text Messages: Batá Drums in a Changing World” explores an endangered tradition of drum speech in Nigeria, and how that tradition changed and thrived in Cuba, where large numbers of enslaved Yoruba arrived in the 19th century. Producer Ned Sublette speaks with ethnomusicologist Amanda Villepastour, language technician Tunde Adegbola, and drummer Kenneth Schweitzer about how language and music overlap."

Ancient Text Messages: Batá Drums in a Changing World  2/11/2016 Afropop: "In Africa, drums don’t only play rhythms, they send messages. “Ancient Text Messages: Batá Drums in a Changing World” explores an endangered tradition of drum speech in Nigeria, and how that tradition changed and thrived in Cuba, where large numbers of enslaved Yoruba arrived in the 19th century. Producer Ned Sublette speaks with ethnomusicologist Amanda Villepastour, language technician Tunde Adegbola, and drummer Kenneth Schweitzer about how language and music overlap."

Hip Deep Angola 4: The Cuban Intervention in Angola  10/3/2014 Afropop Worldwide: "Through music, interviews, and historical radio clips, producer Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music, tells the story of Cuba’s massive commitment in Africa, from the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the subsequent independence of Congo, to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. We’ll talk to guest scholar Piero Gleijeses, foreign policy specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and author of Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa 1959-1976 and the forthcoming Visions of Freedom, and to Marissa Moorman, author of the forthcoming Tuning in to Nation: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola, 1933-2002, who will share with us rare archival recordings."

Program: Hip Deep Angola Part 3: A Spiritual Journey to Mbanza-Kongo  7/18/2012 Afropop Worldwide: "Dr. Martínez’s forthcoming book, KONGO GRAPHIC WRITING AND OTHER NARRATIVES OF THE SIGN (Temple University Press), promises a major step forward in our understanding of, among other things, the relationship of Africa to Afro-Cuba. Even among the field of brilliant scholars we have today, Bárbaro Martínez Ruiz is special. I don’t know of anyone else with the multiple skills that Dr. Martínez has brought to bear on this study all at once, and I don’t know anyone who’s done more arduous fieldwork. He’s revolutionizing our knowledge about basic issues of Kongo culture and its connection to the diaspora, using a multi-disciplinary tool kit that includes art, anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, history, religious studies, cultural studies, philosophy, African studies, Latin American studies – and, needless to say, music. – Ned Sublette"

The Fertile Crescent: Haiti, Cuba and Louisiana  12/5/2011 Afropop Worldwide: "In 1809, the population of New Orleans doubled almost overnight because of French-speaking refugees from Cuba. You read that right– French-speaking refugees from Cuba– part of a wave of music and culture that emigrated from east to west in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. We’ll look at the distinct African roots of these three regions, and compare what their musics sound like today. In this Hip Deep edition of Afropop Worldwide, our colleague Ned Sublette, author of “Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drum to the Mambo,” will talk with Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, author of “Africans in Colonial Louisiana”. Produced by Ned Sublette."

Liberation of the Drum (1937-1945)  12/5/2011 Afropop Worldwide: "Spotlights a crucial period in the formation of modern Cuban music. During this time the conga drum – which had previously been prohibited in public places where whites went – took its place in the popular Cuban dance band. It was the era that saw the emergence of Miguelito Valdés, possibly the most important Cuban vocalist of the century; Arsenio Rodríguez, the great Congo-descended innovator; and Arcaño y Sus Maravillas, with Cachao on bass, who began to play ritmo nuevo – new rhythm – and invented something they called “mambo”. With guest co-hosting and produced by Ned Sublette, author of the critically acclaimed Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo, with the participation of experts in the field, as part of Afropop Worldwide’s “Hip Deep” series."

The Golden Age of Cuban Music  9/14/2011 Afropop Worldwide: "On January 8, 1959, Fidel Castro and his ragtag army marched into Havana and proclaimed victory in the Cuban revolution. Much of the world knew Cuba primarily from its 1930 megahit “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor”) and from the mambo craze of the 1950's. After Castro came to power, the economic, political and cultural doors between Cuba and the U.S. would soon be shut. The doors opened briefly for tours by Cuban artists in the U.S. under the Carter and Clinton administrations. In this broadcast, we savor sounds from the pre-Revolutionary golden age of Cuban music that sets the scene for the international success of Cuban music. We illustrate how popular music in Africa and the Americas is not imaginable without the influence of Cuban music–copied and adapted on three continents. We’ll hear the stories and rare recordings of such core styles as son as well as luminaries such as Beny Moré, Arsenio Rodriguez, Celia Cruz and the Sexteto Habanero; along with less well known artists. [Originally aired in 2001. Produced by Ned Sublette]"

VOICE OF THE LEOPARD: IVOR MILLER talks to NED SUBLETTE  8/9/2007 Afropop: "The voice of the leopard is the main symbol of the Ekpe society of the Cross River region of Nigeria and Cameroon, which was re-created in colonial Cuba as the Abakuá society. And it’s a symbol in both. Essentially the leopard is a sign of royalty all over Central West Africa and the Calabar zone, and it’s a symbol of their political autonomy. Every village in the Cross River region that has Ekpe has their own way to manifest the voice, which means, “we are independent.”"

VOICE OF THE LEOPARD: IVOR MILLER talks to NED SUBLETTE  6/1/2007 Afropop Worldwide: "The voice of the leopard is the main symbol of the Ekpe society of the Cross River region of Nigeria and Cameroon, which was re-created in colonial Cuba as the Abakuá society. And it’s a symbol in both. Essentially the leopard is a sign of royalty all over Central West Africa and the Calabar zone, and it’s a symbol of their political autonomy. Every village in the Cross River region that has Ekpe has their own way to manifest the voice, which means, “we are independent.”

Cuba Connections Festival Opens in New Orleans  3/16/2005 Prensa Latina: "The festival opens March 16 with the lecture "Afro-Cuban Sacred Music and Dance" by musician, arranger and producer Bill Summers. Summers has been a presence on the New Orleans music scene over the last 30 years. When not recording, he has made many trips to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban sacred drumming. He will be joined by percussionist Michael Skinkus, also an Afro-Cuban drumming researcher, and Ned Sublette, a professional musician and scholar recognized as one of the biggest advocates for the import of Cuban music to the US, to discuss Afro-Cuban sacred music and dance. Son of the influential Afro-Cuban jazz composer Chico O´Farrill, pianist Arturo O´Farrill will lecture on the complex relationship between jazz and Latin jazz (March 30), while Cuban scholar Tomas Montoya and Sublette will lecture on Cuban Street Parades & The Roots of Cuban Music, April 6. Professor at Tulane University and author of the book "Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo," Sublette will discuss the migrations of many cultures to Cuba and how the melting of these very different cultures produced the unique musical style the country has been known for. Montoya will compare Conga parades in Santiago de Cuba with Second Line parades in New Orleans."

Rhythm Nation by ANN LOUISE BARDACH  10/11/2004 The Nation: "Sublette weaves his history of Cuban music with the island's political history, from the Spanish conquest and the slave trade to the Independence War and the rise of a scruffy, bearded guy from Biran named Fidel Castro, who had a tin ear and a flat foot but scorching ambition. I read a few dozen books on Cuba and exiles before writing my own, so I don't say this lightly: If you buy only one book on Cuba in your life--and want the history, culture and politics all in one volume--this is the one."

Rumba With a View  6/8/2004 Village Voice: - a good review of Ned Sublette's new book, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo - "Your African roots are showing: Cracking the code of Cuban music—in four easy pieces"

What May 20 signifies by Ned Sublette  10/1/2003 SF Bay View: first published 5/02 - "The American governor of Havana province (excluding the city) was Fitzhugh Lee, an ex-Confederate general and nephew of Robert E. Lee. Had there not been an amnesty for Confederate officers, he might have been hanged for treason after the Civil War. Instead, he became governor of Virginia and subsequently was named by Grover Cleveland as the U.S. Consul General to Cuba. Despite being a Democrat, Lee had been retained by the Republican administration of McKinley, and it had been Lee who had asked for the battleship Maine to come to Havana. He wrote in a book published in 1899: “As there are no more than half as many negroes as whites in Cuba, and the proportion of negroes is steadily growing smaller and will continue to do so at an increasingly rapid rate, all fear of ‘negro domination’ in the island may be dismissed as idle.” "

Salvador Gonzalez Visa Delay Stops Trip to US  10/3/2002 AfroCubaWeb: by Ned Sublette. See our page on Salvador González, the famed muralist of Callejon de Hamel.

Foreign Performers and U.S. Gigs: Getting Here Is a Tougher Ticket  7/22/2002 LA Times: "As of two days ago, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the Cuban rumba group who has appeared many times in the U.S. over the last 10 years, had to cancel scheduled appearances at the last moment (though their INS petition was approved weeks ago) at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and in Puerto Rico and New York. Also having to cancel was Síntesis, the distinguished Cuban group celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a just-announced 2002 Latin Grammy nomination, who were to appear at various dates in August. - Ned Sublette"

What May 20 signifies  5/22/2002 SF Bay View: good summary by Qbadisc's Ned Sublette - "On May 20, 1902, Tomás Estrada Palma became the first president of the Republic of Cuba, and U.S. troops withdrew. Estrada, like the “better class” of Cubans a firm believer in the annexation of Cuba to the U.S., was a U.S. citizen who had spent the entire campaign period in upstate New York, where he had lived for 30 years. He ran unopposed because General Wood hounded his opponent, Bartolomé Masó, into resigning his candidacy a week before the elections."
   

University of Wisconsin, Sep 22, 2007

Afro-Cuba at the Crossroads: Arts, Culture, History, conference/demos  with numerous participants. University of Wisconsin at Madison. Free and open to the public. Sep 16 - Nov 30, 2007

"A Transnational Approach to the Tumba Francesa"
2:30-3:30 - Ned Sublette, independent scholar and author, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo and The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (forthcoming)
Though largely ignored by historians until the 20th century, the Haitian Revolution has belatedly come to be understood as one of the major events in hemispheric history. Less frequently noted is the generative impact that its three castes of refugees had on the course of popular music in the hemisphere. In eastern Cuba, the groups known as tumbas francesas, while correctly considered as a part of Afro-Cuban folklore, can also be seen as a link in a musical chain that reached from Guadeloupe to Louisiana. Discussant - Ricardo Gonzalez

Ned Sublette: March - June 2004


(1) I will be speaking this coming Wednesday, March 3, at the Celeste Bartos Forum of the New York Public Library, at 6:30 p.m. The title of my talk will be "Cuban Music: The Other Great Tradition." General admission is $10.

http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/pep/pepdesc.cfm?id=767

(2) I have just produced an hour-long episode (with three more to come) for Afropop Worldwide's new "Hip Deep" series: "Cuba and Its Music: The Liberation of the Drum, 1937-45." The program uplinks tomorrow and will presumably air this next week in most markets. It airs at a different time on each of the public radio stations that carries it (and unfortunately is not carried on WNYC in New York), so I don't know the exact date and time for your area. The program should also be available in streaming audio, along with a web feature containing text, interviews, and photos, at

www.afropop.org

(3) The long-awaited (by me, anyway) publication of my book "Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo" (Chicago Review Press) is now scheduled for June. 

(4) I will be singing at the Bowery Poetry Club on March 19 at 7:30, in a program titled "Songs of Sentiment."

Friday, March 19, 2004
7:30pm - 9:00pm (note early start time: must end at 9:00) 

Ned Sublette: "Songs of Sentiment" $10 
Bowery Poetry Club / Bowery at Bleecker (across from CBGB)

A solo retrospective of songs of true love and creative ferment, including "Feelin' No Pain," "Rhythm and Booze," and -- why not? -- "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly," as well as oldies but goodies composed by "Blue" Gene Tyranny and Arthur Russell. 


Ned Sublette is a 2003-2004 fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. His book Cuba and its music: From the first drums to the mambo will appear in June 2004 from Chicago Review Press. 

Discography

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Links

Review in the Worcester Phoenix
http://www.worcesterphoenix.com/archive/music/99/04/09/OTR/NED_SUBLETTE.html

Rykodisc catalog entry for Cowboy Rumba
http://www.rykodisc.com/Catalog/dump/rykoalbums_985.asp

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