Review: Buena Vista Social Club ‘Lost and Found’

I have long been a fan of Cuban legends Buena Vista Social Club and I’m lucky enough to have bagged a ticket to their Adios Tour in Manchester this weekend so a review of their latest album ‘Lost and Found’ seems somewhat appropriate…


Buena Vista Social Club are a group formed in the 90’s comprising of veteran Cuban musicians who performed in the famous Havana Buena Vista Social Club before it closed in the 1940’s. The  original self-titled album sparked a revival of Cuban music amongst a wider audience and introduced the world to Cuban classics such as ‘Chan chan’. Their new album ‘Lost and Found’ featuring previously unreleased recordings of the band does not disappoint and is the perfect summer soundtrack for every listener, from the seasoned latin music fans to those new to Cuban sounds! So what does the album sound like?

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Best Latin Remixes

People often ask me what sorts of salsa music I like to listen to, expecting the answer to be the classics along the lines of Tito Puente; of course I love a bit of Tito, but actually my favourite songs to listen to are well-known pop songs that have been remixed for the salsa dancefloor. I think they’re great for bringing a salsa party to life and great for adding latin flavour to an evening when you have non-salsa dancing friends over! I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourites, so stick them on and kick off your summer!


1.  La Isla Bonita – Squeeze Up (Salsa)

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3 Important Songs In My Life

I’m writing this as part of the Writing 101 course so I can improve my blog as much as possible, any feedback would be great! So, today’s challenge is HARD. I have to pick 3 songs, just 3, that are important to me  and my life and write about them without editing what I’m saying too much. But where to start? There are hundreds of important songs in my life, and I need a different ones for different moods I’m in. I wrote a post about this the other day actually, about different songs to combat different problems in my life, so for this one I’ll go from the heart and pick the songs that mean the most to me, regardless of how they are to dance to. Here goes…


Song #1: Bamboleo – The Gipsy Kings

I have loved Latin American music for as long as I can remember, before I even knew what it really was. As a child I can remember dancing to this song with toy castanettes in Majorca, I didn’t know what it was, who it was by, or even that it was in Spanish, I found all that out years later. But something about it, and indeed this whole genre of music that I called ‘holiday music’, because I only ever heard it abroad, made me want to dance. As I grew older it turned into my passion and look where I am now! Salsa addict! And I reckon it’s all down to this song, so thanks Gipsy Kings!


Song #2: Epoca – Gotan Project

The Gotan Project were introduced to me years ago by an older cousin who went travelling in Argentina and came back with their Revancha del Tango album, having taken an Argentine tango class. I have been in love with it ever since! It’s my go-to album for any situation, if I’m cooking, getting ready, working or having people round and want some music on in the background. It’s such a classy and sexy sound and I think anyone would find it hard not to be seduced by it. When teaching an Argentine tango class last year my partner had put on some of the old-style Argentine music, with accordians and such, and the class was slow and disinterested. A quick change to the pure sex that is the Gotan Project soon made the class sit up and pay attention, and indeed wanting more…


Song #3: Let’s Never Stop Falling In Love – Pink Martini

I wrote about Pink Martini in my last post about my favourite music, and I’m sure I’ll write about them again! Words cannot describe my love for this band and this is my favourite song of theirs, I have saved the best ’til last. If you haven’t heard of them I implore you to look them up! They were introduced to me in my teenage years by a dance teacher and they have provided the soundtrack to my life ever since! They are a cuban dancehall-style band full of latin rhythms but with flavours of jazz and other cultures thrown into the mix, all topped off by the beautiful vocals of China Forbes. Their music is sophisticated and sexy but also exciting and each song is vastly different to the last. Let’s never stop falling in love for me is the ultimate love song (I’d like it as my wedding song when the time comes!) and when I heard them perform it live last year in Liverpool it made me really emotional that they were there in front of me playing it live when it means so much to me. Just beautiful!


I can’t wait to hear all your interpretations of today’s challenge and maybe discover some new music!

AlgoRHYTHMS for motivation

Report writing essentials

Report writing essentials

It’s been a busy few weeks for me in Manchester; an upcoming deadline at uni has meant a stressful few weeks in the lab followed by long, lonely days at home this week and last writing up the report. Stress, stress and more stress. If there’s one thing that can take the stress away in an instant though, its music. I’m sure you’d all agree! As a scientist I work a lot with computational algorithms but aside from my usual research, over the past few weeks I’ve developed a few algoRhythms of my own to use music to get me in the right frame of mind for what I’m doing. Stress just disappears! Here are a few problems that we face in the modern world and an irresistable latin song that will make the problem just drift away…


1. Your alarm has just gone off and you reeeeally don’t want to get up and face the day…

This is probably the hardest part of the day for most people! At 6 am Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 are my best friends, a bossa nova or mild samba beat is perfect to perk you up  without being too aggressive and loud to make you want to crawl back into bed. I like Batucada (the beat) but if you’re not awake enough to find a specific song, just press play, make some coffee you’ll be away!


2. You’re at the gym, you want to get fit but right now you can’t be bothered…

This is me all the time! In this situation I challenge you to blare Kalemba by Buraka Som Sistema through your headphones and not want to move around. In fact any of their songs on any of their albums make great gym tracks, urban kuduro with an addictive bassline. Your ass will thank me later.


3. You’re about to have a meeting at work that you’ve been dreading…

Before a meeting I like to listen to Orishas, their urban salsa beats are surprisingly relaxing and help me to focus on what I need to do at times when I’m feeling nervous. Everyone has heard Represent, it helps me to remember that my supervisor doesn’t rule my life, and that no matter what, I’ll always have salsa in my life. Just don’t forget where you are and shout ‘CUBA!’ in the office…


4. You’re at work, trying to work, but all you’re actually doing is staring blankly at your screen…

I do this without even realising; sometimes I go into the lab and just stand at my bench staring at the chemicals on my shelves because I can’t remember/can’t be bothered to do what I’m supposed to be doing! My lab likes to listen to the radio station Absolute 80’s (it’s got some great tunes) but at times like this, almost like magic, they play La Bamba by Los Lobos and suddenly I’m dancing around and motivated to do my work. It’s cheesy and old but sometimes you need a party track at work to remember that there’s more to life than the 9 to 5!


5. You’ve just got home from a looong day, you want to eat something but collapse on the sofa and can’t quite manage to reach the kitchen…

Tito Puente is you man here for some proper cuban salsa. I love to dance around my apartment and the kitchen has the biggest floor space. When Tito is doing his thing you’ll want to get up and dance so you might as well cook while you’re at it! Ran Kan Kan would be a good place to start. Just watch your fingers with knives when you’re dancing around…


6. You want to go out to salsa, but your bed looks so inviting…

For this I usually need some proper reggaeton to get me excited enough to actually leave my apartment. I love classic salsa tracks but if I’m honest I prefer dancing salsa to songs with more of a reggaeton beat. I have roots in hip hop dancing and I find I can express myself more to songs with a heavier beat. My favourite reggaeton song to dance salsa to is Ella Me Levante by Daddy Yankee, so next time you’re struggling to motivate yourself to go out, put this on and dance around for a bit, you’ll be in the mood by the first chorus I promise!


7. You’re trying to get to sleep, but all the things you couldn’t focus on at work are now whizzing round in your head and sleep is impossible…

Always the way isn’t it? For this situation I’ve chosen a song by Pink Martini. Pink Martini have been my favourite band since I was a teenager, if you have never heard of them look them up! They are similar to a cuban dancehall band of the 50’s and play a lot of latin rhythms but with elements of jazz and other cultures thrown in to create a really unique sound and almost every song is different to the last one. Before I go to sleep I like to listen to Aspettami to get my brain to chill out, but any number of their slower numbers would do the trick!


Hope this has given you some ideas! If you have any suggestions of any songs that you find motivating and inspiring, please let me know, I’d love to check them out!

Represent, represent Cuba – Manchester’s hidden Havana

La Habana, Cuba

La Habana, Cuba

There aren’t many similarities which spring to mind between Manchester,’The Rainy City’, and Havana, Cuba. In fact I can’t think of  a single one. Sure, with plentiful shops, nightlife, universities and football teams, Manchester has it’s perks and I fell in love with it as soon as I moved here last summer. But for a salsa dancer whose heart longs for the latin beats and sunny streets of La Habana, Manchester’s eternal rain and incessant obsession with Oasis  can somewhat dampen your spirits, quite literally. It was time to find somewhere where I put on my dancing shoes and let my hair down, pronto. With a little investigation it became clear that Manchester does in fact have a Latin side which it hides from the shoppers and day-trippers. A whole variety of Latin nights and classes catering for a wide variety of abilities and dance styles are available for Mancunians to try something new, improve techniques or simply enjoy hitting the dancefloor.

Having been a regular at Liverpool’s infamous ‘La Casa’ throughout my university years I am no stranger to the salsa world. Arriving every Thursday I would instantly be surrounded by friends and familiar faces, even the bar staff would know my drink order before I did. Here in Manchester  my passion for salsa is not shared by my friends and even as an experienced dancer I  was daunted by the thought of turning up to a bar and not knowing anyone. Who wouldn’t be?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. Mancunians are the friendliest people I have ever met. Within minutes of arriving in the Cuban dancehall-themed basement of Peter Street’s Revolution de Cuba one Wednesday I was invited to dance and by the end of the evening had made several new friends who shared my love of all things salsa. With a dancefloor packed with people twirling away to the Cuban beats and often a live band I had discovered my own piece of Havana in the heart of Manchester.

What I like the most about Salsa Social at RDC is the diversity of people and abilities. While there are are many experienced dancers who can head straight for the dancefloor there are also complete beginners trying out moves learned in the class beforehand, and both are equally as welcome. There are also those who ‘do not dance’ who prefer to have a drink (the rum selection is fantastic!) and just enjoy the atmosphere, many of whom are drawn down from the bar upstairs by the irresistible beats and sheer curiosity.

My advice to those wondering if they should try salsa would be to just give it a go! We’re a friendly bunch and once you start to feel the beat you’ll be hooked, I promise. See you there next Wednesday!