Borderline Latin: Calle Real, Cuban Timba from Swedish Sweden

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

I must confess: when they first told me about Calle Real, I wasn’t particularly excited. I enjoy listening to Cuban music, but timba is not one of my favorite genres –it sounds too much like salsa for me, and I am not a consummated fan of salsa. However, their mild sound with some elements of funk and rhythm and blues is a little catchy. Then, I found out that they did very well in their first tour around Japan last year, where they performed at the Isla de Salsa Borderless Music Festival in Fukuoka –this festival has been going on for 15 years, and apparently, it’s something big in Japan. Since last week’s Borderline Latin featured a Japanese Latin rock band, that sealed the deal.

Calle Real formed in Sweden, in 1999. According to their website, they started playing Cuban music in the style of the Buena Vista Social Club, but then decided to evolve into a blending of timba, pop, rhythm and blues and funk. Although they say there’s a growing interest in Latin American music in Sweden, there are not that many Swedish bands adopting Latin rhythms and trying to create an original style –which is not that surprising. All the songs performed by Calle Real are originals.

Twelve people make up the band’s line up. None of them is from Cuba, though they say they have traveled to Cuba to study the local music –they have also performed at the island on more than one occasion. From their second album, titled Me lo gané, here’s a track that exploits a little bit of nostalgia –just like the Oscars, but from a very different age: “Jugando Super Mario Bros.” Enjoy.

Calle Real – Jugando Super Mario Bros., composition and arrangement by Karl Frid by fridandfrid

Download Calle Real’s Me lo gané below:

Click HERE to read more on “Borderline Latin.” For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.