Many people say that the Buena vista social club movie came and wrecked the whole scene. Because people then thought that was the extent of Afro cuban music. There was no reference at all to more contemporary music styles in that film.
You know, it's so interesting how that happens in music, particularly world-music and jazz. It's like once someone comes along with something that becomes commercialized to the extent that say the Buena Vista Social Club was, all the sudden that's the bar that the music is set at. It's the same thing with Ali Farka Toure in my mind and the whole Putamayo label in general. I appreciate that they are bringing these contemporary artistis onto people's radar, but there is so much more to it that this one style of music from this one guy in Mali. Mali is a freakin' hotbed of contemporary West African music, but all anyone knows is Ali Farka Toure (may he rest in peace). I guess the hope would be that folks eventually say "where did this sound come from, and who else might be doing something like it?"
But back to Buena Vista. The stuff that they did is certainly important, and it opened people's ears to a sound which was all but completely obscured to American society at large, and for that it was great. But like you say, people are in danger of thinking, "Oh I know all about Afro-Cuban music cause I bought their album". But then what happens when they hear Deep Rumba, or any of the American Clave guys, or even one of Michel Camilo's old albums, or some of your stuff? Their brains will explode!
I think the important thing is for people to realize that musical genre's are artificial things that we create in order to separate all of the stuff that people buy. But there is a commonality between all music and when you open up to everything and realize that music is music and with the right intention, you can combine or evolve in any direction that you want, it becomes beautiful and harmonious as it should be.
I wonder if the evolution of Afro-Cuban music is subject to the same types of restrictions that I see in American Jazz, or Popular music for that matter. To me, it appears to have been a lot more fluid. But maybe that's because I am more of an outsider and haven't taken part in that dialogue as much.
Have you had any debates like this among folks in the scene in NYC?