A report from Latina.
If your body’s craving soulful Carribean sounds, you’ve come to the right place to get your musical fix. Husband and wife, Ray Chew and Vivian Scott Chew joined forces with Mark and Kathy Grier to create the album, Two Beats, One Soul. A dynamic partnership brought together Cuban harmonies and modern day music. The collaboration was to explore and expose Cuba’s impact on today’s music by recreating traditional Cubano rhythms.
The album has a unique approach as it features an array of Latin artists such as Rubenand Gabriel Rodriguez, Xiomara Laugart, Milagros Hodelin and Etian “Brebaje Man.” Prepare to have a love affair with Cuba’s rich musical influence – from the vibrant cities in the north to the southern shores of the Caribbean island.–
The power couple said, “Two Beats, One Soul explores the musical communities of Guines birthplace of Tata Guines, known as ‘The King of Congas,’ Matanzas – best known for its poets and dance traditions like the Danzón and the rumba – and of course the country’s capital Havana.” Both New York natives had the vision to create a project that would bring them to Cuba; we caught up with the two executive producers below.
All of the songs are either co-written or co-produced by the Cuban artists. – Ray Chew
When did you decide to embark on this musical adventure? What was the vision behind merging the two countries?
Vivian– It started as my vision to want to do a project in Cuba. I had visited the island back in 1999 and had always been intrigued by all of the beauty that comes from there – the music, food, religion, traditions… everything that is Cuba.
Ray– After she came to me, it was my job to come up with the musical ‘bed’ that this project would live in. Upon my second visit to Cuba, I connected and bonded with the artists and spirit of Cuba’s music and history. The education I received from the musicians was that Rhumba is the DNA of all of the music and the ‘clave’ is the heartbeat. It was important to me that the music be authentic and not contrived. So, all of the songs are either co-written or co-produced by the Cuban artists. Also, the musicians had significant input into the makeup of the recordings.
Who came up with the name for the album?
Vivian– Co-Executive Producer, Kathy Grier and I came together to create the name.
Why was it important to have so many artists on one album?
Vivian– We wanted to show that many musical flavors come from the island. From the driving beat of “Sounds of Cuba” to the more sensual rhythm of “Havana Moon” to the beauty and sacredness of “Canto de Cuba”, we presented the many ‘colors’ of not only the music but of the culture. With this idea in mind, we needed to call in the perfect artists to help us accomplish this.
Ray– We both felt that there was a lot to say and we didn’t want to limit it to just one voice.
How did Cuban natives react to you documenting the process?
Vivian– We could not have had a warmer reception. We were overwhelmed by the love we were shown. We spent every day at Abdala Studios in Havana for two straight weeks, and once the news got out around the island that this project was happening, every day we saw more and more musicians showing up at the studio desiring to be a part of the plan. And we used them!
What was it like working with Louie Vega?
Ray– Louie is an excellent music maker and has a rich history of his own.
Vivian– I am the biggest Louie Vega fan in the world. When he is in town (NYC), he performs at a club called Cielo on Wednesday nights. You can always find me there until the early hours of the morning being entranced by his music. Louie was the first artist I asked to be on the project, so it was like a dream come true when he said yes. He is the consummate professional and perfectionist when it comes to the music he creates. He brought his wife, Anané Vega and Josh Milan to Cuba to sing on two of the four songs he produced as well as Cuba’s own Axel Tosca who played keyboards on many of the songs.
What were some of the hardships you both faced while creating an album with an array of the different artist?
To be honest, there were no hardships. Throughout the two weeks, we carefully scheduled artists arriving so that each one would have enough time to soak up a bit of the island before going in the studio. None of them had ever been to Cuba before so the creative process was indeed an organic experience for them all.
Inspired by the beauty the Caribbean island has to offer, the married couple documented the trip and intimate moments they shared with Cuba. The documentary visually walks you through the album’s production process and bridges the gap of the Cuban and American lifestyle. Check out the video below for more info.