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For all Cuba´s deep and long–lived cultural connection with the US, its pretty interesting that one of the latter´s great musical genres—rock ‘n´ roll—hasn´t really developed on the island as one might have expected. During the early 60´s and 70´s, rock was not well–supported on the island but in the more open 80´s, rock groups began to form, very influenced by heavy metal, trash and grunge, and by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Nirvana and various Argentinean groups. Despite this, it has remained a relatively small movement but we´ve chosen five popular bands—Zeus, Rice and Beans, Escape, Hypnosis and Tesis de Menta—that are felt to be most representative of rock in Cuba.
Zeus are trash/metal icons. Known as fine musicians and still together after 15 years, they began singing in Russian (!) then later switched to Spanish. Zeus recorded all their hit singles themselves—”La silla eléctrica” (80´s), “Violento Metrobus” (90´s) and “Confiesa” (2000)—and, as yet, no Cuban label has offered them a deal. We don´t know about outside. The band have played at various rock festivals in Spain and won the very first Cuerda Viva (Cuban alternative music festival) Top Popular Music prize.
2 Rice and Beans
Rice and Beans are formally trained musicians from Matanzas and—more rock longevity—have been together for over 10 years. Their style is called “new metal,” they sing in English and more recently they´ve transformed their grunge sound to something close to a Nirvana style.
Based in Havana, Escape plays what their fans call a kind of very contemporary, exciting, hard–core trash. Their drummer is also an actor and their female keyboard player, said to be a particularly gifted musician. You can hear them on the Goya prize–winning soundtrack of the film Habana Blues.
For Hipnosis, think English–sung, girl Heavy Metal (only two boys in this band), influenced by grunge and trash and led by the karate–belted, deep–sea diving and self–taught bassist, Fanny Tachin. Their album, with EGREM, The Chosen One, is recognised as being extremely well–produced, and the video clip of the same–named hit single won five Lucas (big, national, annual video–clip festival) awards.
5 Tesis de Menta
Tesis de Menta are the new girls and boys on the block. Self–taught guitarist Roberto Perdomo composes, arranges and leads what he describes as a lyrical rock ‘n´ roll outfit. The band mix a 60´s and 70´s sound with contemporary elements such as funk, jazz and blues. After winning Cuerda Viva´s Best New Group category in 2006, they were signed to EGREM and recorded their first album, Mi generación, which was produced by celebrated guitarist, Elmer Ferrer. Tesis de Menta were also nominated for the prestigious Cubadisco 2007 awards in the pop–rock category. If the word on the street is right, they might well win.