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The Drop: Mala Takes Dubstep To Cuba

The dubstep producer Mala recorded sounds for his new album, <em>Mala In Cuba</em>, during a trip to Havana with the BBC DJ Gilles Peterson.
Teddy Fitzhugh
Courtesy of the artist
The dubstep producer Mala recorded sounds for his new album, Mala In Cuba, during a trip to Havana with the BBC DJ Gilles Peterson.

About a decade ago, a duo named Digital Mystikz put out a series of 12" singles on its label, DMZ. The group's music was a hybrid of a number of influences including dub, reggae, drum and bass, grime and two-step, and as the decade wore on, "dubstep" became the name for this uniquely British combination. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, dubstep was embraced by producers in America, who honed in on the aggressive mid- and low-range synths of the tracks coming out of London to make high energy festival jams. In London, the sound evolved in a more purist direction; productions often favored the darker, moodier aspects of the original recipe as opposed to the brashness of the American style.

In 2012, dubstep has splintered and contorted in so many different directions that it's difficult to put descendants of this music into neat categories. Which can be a good thing: when a genre has changed as much as dubstep has over the years, producers can freely stretch its boundaries. This is what Mala has done with his newest release, Mala In Cuba.

Out this week on BBC Radio Host Gilles Peterson's label Brownswood Recordings, Mala In Cuba combines traditional Cuban sounds with British dubstep's trademark darkness. The song "Mulata" begins a with a looped rhythm called Danzon set under a piano pattern called Guajeo. When the deep drum kick drops, Mala introduces frequencies found in dubstep: a low powerful bass kick, a sub-bass that ebbs and flows as the track goes on, and moody vocals. It's a challenging combination of cultures, rhythms and sounds unique to its producer, a man who has experience creating hybrid genres.

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Sami Yenigun
Sami Yenigun is the Executive Producer of NPR's All Things Considered and the Consider This podcast. Yenigun works with hosts, editors, and producers to plan and execute the editorial vision of NPR's flagship afternoon newsmagazine and evening podcast. He comes to this role after serving as a Supervising Editor on All Things Considered, where he helped launch Consider This and oversaw the growth of the newsmagazine on new platforms.