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Cuban Guitar Quartet — “¡Sandunga!” (Adlib Music, 2020)


The genesis of “Sandunga!” unfolds through a fortuitous confluence of events, catalyzed by a spontaneous phone call during a UK tour and propelled by Iliana Matos’ visionary proposal to record music for four guitars. This project, characterized by the quartet’s seamless workflow, is underpinned by our shared history of collaboration, transcending geographical distances and showcasing a deep musical synergy.

Delving into the musical landscape of “Sandunga!,” I offer insights into compositions that serve as cultural vignettes, such as the “Suite Habana,” a four-movement piece offering a musical journey through my hometown. The interconnected compositions, “Agua y mieles” and “Amores de Oshún,” draw inspiration from Oshún, weaving a tapestry of cultural syncretism between African and Cuban traditions. Examining the album’s musical diversity, pieces like “Acrílicos en el espacio” showcase a fusion of intricate elements with a “Latin American Baroque” flavor, while tracks like “Valsando” and “Matices de luz” exhibit simplicity and crystalline beauty.

“Sandunga!” is not merely an album but a scholarly exploration and celebration of cultural heritage. The Cuban Guitar Quartet, through this collective opus, invites listeners to traverse the vibrant streets of Havana, navigate the rhythmic complexities of Cuban sones, and explore the nuanced realms of Latin American Baroque. This reflection aims to underscore our commitment to preserving and evolving the rich musical heritage of Cuba, showcasing the quartet’s ability to seamlessly navigate the dynamic range of Cuban musical traditions and leaving an enduring mark on the global tapestry of musical expression.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music


In the realm of musical collaboration, the Cuban Guitar Quartet’s latest album, “Sandunga!” (Adlib Music, 2020), emerges as a testament to the power of spontaneous inspiration and the seamless blend of diverse musical talents. Comprising Eduardo Martín, Ahmed Dickinson, Iliana Matos, and Galy Martín, this quartet takes us on a fascinating journey through the creation of their latest work, offering insights into its genesis, workflow, and the rich tapestry of compositions that define this musical odyssey.

The Genesis of “Sandunga!”

“Suddenly, I felt like the guest.” Eduardo Martín reminisces about the genesis of “Sandunga!”—a project born from a serendipitous phone call between Ahmed Dickinson and himself during a tour in the UK. The catalyst for this endeavor was Iliana Matos, who, aware of their collaboration, proposed the idea of recording music for four guitars. The spontaneity of this proposal, combined with the enthusiasm of the quartet, set the stage for a project that would transcend individual contributions, culminating in a collaborative masterpiece.

The Workflow

Despite geographical distances, the quartet’s shared history of collaboration proved to be the glue that held their project together. Eduardo Martín, having played with each member individually and in various combinations, notes that the quartet’s familiarity with his repertoire was such that they may have been more prepared than he himself. This pre-existing synergy laid the foundation for a seamless workflow, allowing the quartet to navigate the complexities of their compositions with ease.

Exploring the Musical Landscape

“Sandunga!” is not merely an album; it is a sonic exploration of Cuba’s cultural and musical landscapes. Eduardo Martín provides a glimpse into the diverse compositions that populate the album, each a distinct facet of Cuban musical traditions.

The “Suite Habana,” a four-movement composition, stands out as a musical journey through Martín’s hometown. With varied harmonic and rhythmic approaches, it encapsulates the essence of Havana. The interconnected pieces “Agua y mieles” and “Amores de Oshún” draw inspiration from Oshún, embodying a cultural syncretism that intertwines African and Cuban traditions.

Musical Diversity and Contrasts

“Sandunga!” boasts a spectrum of compositions that contribute to its musical diversity. “Acrílicos en el espacio” presents a fusion of intricate musical elements with a “Latin American Baroque” flavor, showcasing the quartet’s ability to navigate diverse musical terrains. Conversely, tracks like “Valsando” and “Matices de luz” offer simplicity and crystalline beauty, highlighting the quartet’s versatility.

The album’s contrasts are exemplified in pieces like “La trampa” and “Hasta Alicia baila.” The latter, inspired by the guaguancó, introduces contrasting rhythms, adding a layer of complexity to the overall narrative. This interplay of styles within “Sandunga!” reflects the quartet’s capacity to seamlessly navigate the dynamic range of Cuban musical traditions.


In the culmination of “Sandunga!,” the Cuban Guitar Quartet presents not just a musical offering but a celebration of cultural heritage and artistic innovation. The quartet’s ability to weave together diverse elements into a cohesive whole reflects not only their technical prowess but also their deep connection with the cultural roots that underpin Cuban music.

This album is more than a collection of compositions—it is a testament to the quartet’s commitment to preserving and evolving the rich musical heritage of Cuba. Through their collective virtuosity, the Cuban Guitar Quartet invites listeners to embark on a journey that traverses the vibrant streets of Havana, delves into the rhythmic complexities of Cuban sones, and explores the nuanced realms of Latin American Baroque.

In conclusion, “Sandunga!” is an auditory exploration of Cuba’s musical soul, a harmonious convergence of four exceptional talents. The quartet’s collaborative spirit has not only enriched the world of Cuban music but has also paved the way for the evolution of this timeless art form. As listeners immerse themselves in the resonant melodies of “Sandunga!,” they become witnesses to the transformative power of music—a force that transcends boundaries, unites cultures, and leaves an indelible mark on the tapestry of human experience.

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