Sebastian Schunke (GER)
And the winner is… Sebastian Schunke! The German pianist and composer could hardly believe it when he was awarded the Cuban Grammy – one of the most respected music awards in Latin America – on his birthday in Havana, in the premises of the famous Hotel Internacional, in front of the entire Cuban and international press, as part of the grand Cubadisco music festival. There he stood, cameras focused on him, holding the beautiful award in his hand and delivering his acceptance speech in Spanish. His otherwise fluent Spanish faltered as he dedicated the award to his two daughters, tears streaming down his face. The emotions were overwhelming because his decades-long musical journey received another international recognition and the respect it deserves in a wonderful way.
It was the birthplace of the culture that he discovered as a 13-year-old in a small town near Hanover, Germany, that honored his artistic work with the “Premio Internacional” – an appreciation that means the world to Schunke. The Cubadisco award is only given to artists who have engaged with Cuban culture in a special way and have made an exceptional contribution to the development of Cuban-Latin American culture. Thus, Schunke joins the list of renowned winners such as Chucho Valdés and Los Van Van. “It is the official accolade – there is nothing more!” says Schunke.
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas (CUB)
The true Rumba of Cuba actually only knows two instruments – drums and voice. Since its foundation in 1952, the group Los Muñequitos from the city of Matanzas (about 100 km east of Havana on the northern coast of the island) has been engaging in conversations with drums of unparalleled inventiveness and virtuosity. Thanks to this outstanding quality, the group quickly gained recognition, first in Havana, then worldwide. Today, they still exist and were nominated for a Grammy in 2001. They continue to be regarded as the measure of all things Rumba in Cuba, praised for their extremely fluid style and their never-ending ideas to further develop this traditional dance style, especially the sexually charged variant of Rumba Guaguancó. Their music directly reflects the syncretism that exists in Cuba, where sacred songs for the Orishas often coexist with more secular themes and adaptations of Spanish songs in a single recording or performance. Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is a living legend of African music in Cuba.