RE/MX: High Fidelity

Afro-Cuban All-Stars - "Tangá”

By David Jenison

In 1943, Afro-Cuban jazz artist Mario Bauzá made history by composing the first-ever Latin jazz song, “Tangá.” Bauzá was music director for the Machito-led Afro-Cubans, and the group recorded the song (which blends jazz and clave) that same year. Thanks to songs like “Tangá,” Machito helped popularize the genre, and a section of East Harlem (East 111th Street and Third Avenue) was named Machito Square in his honor. Another NYC-based Cuban bandleader—Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame—is probably better known to mainstream America, but Bauzá and Machito were true trailblazers who helped carve out a new genre. Better still, “Tangá” was Latin slang for cannabis, creating a historic connection between jazz and cannabis cultures.  

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