This soundtrack to the Oliver Stone documentary about Fidel Castro is essentially a compilation of 14 Cuban songs spanning the last half-century, followed by three tracks (totalling 13 minutes) from the score by Alberto Iglesias; regular composer for both Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia, 2001) Pedro Almodóvar (Talk To Her, 2002).
There's little to be said about the songs from a film music point of view. As a compilation they provide a well balanced mix of the old and new, recordings spanning 1949-2001, with four classics from leading Cuban music star Beny More covering 1949-58, the set coming up-to-date with contributions from the now celebrated Buena Vista Social Club and their title anthem recorded in 1997, to a 2001 tune from Pepesito Reyes. Unfortunately no lyrics, either in Spanish or English are provided, so for non-Spanish speakers this is the equivalent of watching an Almodóvar movie without subtitles. The sound is variable but always very listenable and the tracks have been balanced and sequenced to play well as a compilation. There is a good variety of moods and no one could question of the authenticity of the selections; there's no out of place token pop grafted on for commercial reasons, and anyone who appreciates Cuban music should find plenty to enjoy, though on the other hand they may well already have several of the tracks in their collections.
As for the score, it is presented as three cues: "Comandante 1-3". The first is the shortest, a mid-temp Latin instrumental with the melody taken on electric piano, some expressive brass punctuation and a constant percussive pulse. At over 6 minutes the second cue is much more of an electronic soundscape, opening with sampled male voice and developing through ambient textures to become a distaff march with complex percussive programming and mixing offsetting a playfully innocent flute and eloquent trumpet. Gradually the beat fades away and the cue ends in atmospheric drones. The final score cue begins much the same way the second ended, then blends atonal flute, plaintive violin and digitally delayed marimba tones to uncanny effect, an ambient electronica beat joining the mix to take the music into "chill out" territory before the final fade.
An album which probably works best as a souvenir of the film – which I haven't seen – but which makes a good compilation of Cuban song in what is rapidly becoming a rather crowded market. The 13 minutes of score alone is barely reason even for serious fans of the composer to seek out this disc.
See also :
Hable Con Ella (Talk To Her)