Ace trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are in Cuba this week to perform with island musicians in an unprecendented concert, and it got us thinking about the many talented musicians the country has produced. Here, we pay homage to those extraordinary artists and many more, who despite being born elsewhere, have a passion for Cuban music that courses through their veins. Meet a few salseras, rockeros, raperos and pop estrellas you might not know are of Cuban descent.
1. Cubans: La Lupe
The 70s bolero, guaracha and Latin soul icon spent so much time in New York and Puerto Rico after leaving Cuba that it’s no wonder many people still think she was boricua. Not so, though she loved that island as well: Guadalupe Victoria Yoli Raymond was born in Santiago, Cuba. We hear boricua Dexter actess, Lauren Velez might be playing Lupe in a movie! How cool is that?
2. Cubans: Mellow Man Ace, Sen Dog, B-Real
Mellow Man Ace, Sen Dog and B-Real
The West Coast rap pioneers, original members of Cypress Hill, were born in Cuba (as Ulpiano Sergio Reyes and Senen Reyes, respectively) and left the island when they hit a visa lottery, eventually settling in Southern Cali. While Sen Dog remained with Cypress Hill, along with Cuban-Mexican B-Real (Louis Freese), Mellow Man went on to a solo career that included an album called Escape from Havana.
3. Cubans: Irene Cara
The singer, who won a Best Original Song Oscar for the movie song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” is Cuban on her mother’s side, while her dad was Puerto Rican.
4. Cubans: Tico Torres
Bon Jovi may have seemed like a quintessential all-American band, but the man keeping the beat on drums was a New York-born cubano whose parents emigrated from the island in 1948.
5. Cubans: Carlos Ponce
He was born in Santurce, a Puerto Rican city known for its famous natives (like actor Benicio del Toro and New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada), but the pop balladeer's parents fled Cuba after Castro took over.
6. Cubans: Nona Gaye
The only child of soul legend Marvin Gaye, the singer and actress (The Matrix Trilogy) can claim Cuban heritage through her mom, Janis.