Review of Mala in Cuba—Live


Emir Nader (The Beaver Online) reviews Mala in Cuba Live and ponders the coherence or lack thereof) of dubstep:

Last year Mala, the dubstep pioneer of Digital Mystikz fame, released Mala in Cuba. It was the culmination of a musical and literal journey through Cuba in which Mala had joined esteemed BBC DJ Gilles Peterson. Mala gave this project its second only London outing last week as he reunited with Gilles at the Camden Koko.

For a good few years now, the comments section of Youtube has been a morass of argument over the definition of dubstep. It is a genre that fails to be firmly defined and interestingly it is the parties that claim to love dubstep who disagree most fiercely over its nature. However, if there are two features of dubstep that are possible to abstract it is the general repetition of electronic production and an anchoring in deep bass. On reflection, why Mala’s take on Cuban sounds is so surprisingly successful and coherent is because it is only the ideas of repetition and bass weight that he marries with it. Mala in Cuba invokes the method rather than the content of dubstep, fashioning an entirely new aesthetic from its DNA much in the way that James Blake did.

Frankly, the shelf-life of dubstep could quite easily have been nothing more than a summer’s worth of dubplates played to small East London clubs. However, if the vitality of the genre is to be attributed to any cause it is to a handful of producers with enough innovation to make for its rise ad astra.

It is this inspiration that Mala harnesses and demonstrates even on stage. Before the show this reviewer was sceptical that a live performance of the album could do justice to the record. It is peculiar of modern production that the live performance often becomes an after-thought and it is not uncommon for musicians to fail at realising it; Ghostpoet’s shows come to mind in particular. Mala enlisted two percussionists in accompaniment to help bring the record to life. In his premiere of Mala in Cuba in Brixton last year he was joined by a pianist amongst other live musicians and this would have been welcome in Camden; likely as this was not a solo show he did not call on his full ensemble.

To catch Mala in Cuba at a solo show where Mala will be accompanied by his full live band is something that cannot be recommended enough. The atmosphere that Mala has captured with this project is universal enough to get a full room dancing without exception and its world music touch makes for perhaps the most high-brow show one can lose their shit to.

For original review, see

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