With a name that sounds like the lament of a Spanish gambler, Carlos Alas del Casino helped popularize the guajira style of tango in his native Cuba before fleeing to Miami in the '60s at the height of tensions between Fidel Castro and the United States. The resulting American cultural influences may have gone well beyond the atmosphere of the Miami Cuban exile community and its right-wing fiats; his son, also a singer with the stripped-down name of Jovary Alas, supposedly wound up jamming with heavy metal maestro Alice Cooper at Studio 54.
Alas del Casino's music career began in an environment seemingly another world -- not just a short boat ride -- from the likes of Cooper. Guajira songs were, in the lyrical sense, a bit like country & western, dealing with rural scenarios in a sentimental manner. Musically, the creations were more typically Cuban, involving a pairing of contrasting time signatures. In the '40s, his performances of these traditional tango styles began to resound throughout Cuba. Over the following two decades, the handsome Alas del Casino was a familiar voice on Cuban radio and a touring artist throughout Latin America. The Cubanacan label has released Cantantes de la Orquestra: Casino de la Playa, Volume One, a collection of vintage performances including Alas del Casino crooning "Soy Como Soy," a song title which, for non-Spanish speakers, may suggest the ultimate in cheap Chinese meals. ~ Eugene Chadbourne