If you’re looking to expand your world of music, listening to some of the best Cuban songs will do the trick. You’ll find Afro-Cuban jazz, Cuban hip-hop, classic jazz, Latin dance, and much more among the greatest numbers, each coming from incredible musicians who proudly represent their country in the music they’ve created.
So, whether you’re of Cuban descent and just looking for who you’ve been missing in your playlist or among the folks new to the music sphere, you’ll find these are the best of the best and well worth adding to your playlist.
Me Dicen Cuba – Havana D’Primera
Havana D’Primera is a sixteen-piece Cuban Timba band founded by Alexander Abreu. From their first show, this band quickly became well known due to being a supergroup made up of seasoned vets from Cuba’s music scene. ‘Me Dicen Cuba’ is an infectious upbeat song about the band’s pride in being Cuban and playing a style of music that invokes the beauty of their homeland.
Si No Vuelves – Gente De Zona
Gente De Zona, or Zone People, is a Cuban reggaeton duo made up of Alexander Delgado Hernández and Randy Malcom Martínez. They first saw success in 2014 with collaborations with various artists. Their song ‘Si No Vuelves’ means “if you don’t come back.” The song is about the singer having endured a terrible breakup. No matter what he does, he awakes every morning, missing who they are in love with.
Related: Listen to these songs about a lost love.
Cuba Isla Bella – Orishas
Cuban group Orishas is based in France, but their love for Cuba is evident in their music and how frequently they visit their beloved homeland. In 1999, Fidel Castro held a party in their honor. This was the first time the Cuban government recognized and endorsed hip-hop music. Without proper context, it is possible to think their song ‘Cuba Isla Bella’ is a love song to a woman, but this song is actually intended to be about how much this group loves Cuba.
Related: Celebrate Cuba and other countries with the best songs about countries around the world.
Idilio – Leoni Torres
Leoni Torres is a Cuban singer, songwriter, and producer whose career began in the ’90s. He has collaborated with many artists but has a noted solo career with six albums. ‘Idilio’ is a passionate love song full of angst, longing, and the eventual hope that the singer will be reunited with who they love. Even though the singer is suffering from waiting so long, they reaffirm the love they feel is worth the pain of waiting.
Related: Waiting for someone? Here are the best anticipation songs.
Brindemos por Ella – Los 4
Los 4 is a hip-hop group hailing from Cuba. The song ‘Brindemos por Ella’ translates as “Here’s to Ella.” This passionate song is about love. It is not directed to a specific woman named Ella, but instead, several instances where love did not happen. This includes a forbidden romance because of who Ella is already with. The song also speaks about the heartbreak that would occur should the singer or listener pursue Ella. Of course, “ella” is also the Spanish word for “her,” so the song could be taken as a more generic theme toward nameless women loved and gone.
Related: Check out these sneaky songs about secret relationships.
Baila Riddim – Farruko, IAmChino, and Justin Quiles
‘Baila Riddim’ is a collaboration with a group of well-known artists. The song is a celebration of the club scene. The singers of the song are on a night out on the town. They are looking to celebrate in a ridiculously luxurious manner. The song starts with them driving Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The song somehow manages to become even more self-indulgent and expensive in its exposition.
Me Quedaré Contigo – Ne-Yo and Pitbull
‘Me Quedaré Contigo’ is the third single from Pitbull’s eleventh album, “Libertad 548,” and is a collaboration with Ne-Yo. The song’s title translates as “I’ll Stay with You.” This is a rather heartfelt love song about how in the face of fame and success, the singer still chooses to be with the woman they fell in love with. They promise that no matter the success or temptation, the love they feel will only grow stronger and that the woman being sung about is their inspiration for having success in the first place.
No Mas Mentiras – El Micha, El Uniko, and Jacob Forever
‘No Mas Mentiras,’ or in English, ‘No More Lies,’ is a collaboration track about heartbreak and no longer being able to trust or handle being in a future relationship. The melancholy material chronicles how the singer can no longer move beyond the last relationship because of being betrayed. The singers of the song eventually end up warning the listener to be careful of love and careful of relationships, that it is dangerous to give trust to someone who hasn’t earned it.
Related: Who do you trust? Listen to the best songs about trust in relationships.
Me Mantengo – Juan Formell and Los Van Van
Los Van Van was one of the most successful musical acts in post-revolution Cuba. Part of their endurance has been their ability to adapt to musical changes and incorporate new sounds that help each album sound fresh. The song title of ‘Me Mantengo’ translates as ‘I Hold Up.’ This song celebrates the history of music and art and how we are connected to the past and the future through the music we make.
Lagrimas Negras – Cuba Feliz
‘Lagrimas Negras,’ or “black tears,” is a song written in 1929 by Trio Matamoros. It has been a popular song covered by dozens of groups. It is a song of loss and mourning, a reflection looking back and realizing that what once was will never happen again. The song’s latter part makes it seem like the singer is choosing to move forward. However, we do not know if they choose to move forward into the future or stand still, waiting for the past.
Related: The clock is ticking! Here are the best songs with the word time.
Quisiera Volver – Baby Lores and Descemer Bueno
‘Quisiera Volver’ in English means “I would like to return.” This cover by Baby Lores and Bueno is a sad song about loss. It looks back at a previous romance that had changed the singer’s life. Now without their love, the singer is unsure what to do besides pine for the days that have passed. We do not know why the relationship ended, only that it broke their heart.
Related: Head over to our playlist of splitting up songs.
Ciudad Hembra (La Habana) – Alex Cuba
Alex Cuba is a Grammy award-winning bilingual singer and songwriter. He is a Cuban-Canadian who performs in English and Spanish. ‘Ciudad Hembra’ (La Habana) is a song from Cuba’s 2019 release Sublime. The song itself is a love song for the city of Havana, Cuba. The lyrics convey a warm view of the city and paint it as a great city to visit and explore.
Pasaporte – Havana D’Primera
‘Pasaporte’ is a fantastically complicated tune by Havana D’Primera. While the upbeat music may indicate a song focused on dancing or parties, the lyrics are far from cheerful. The title translates literally as ‘Passport’ and is about a woman seeking to escape a political revolution. Passports are used in the song as a metaphor and a literal means for the character to escape the pain and destruction inherent in any political coupe.
Related: Make a run for our playlist of music about escaping.
Yolanda – Pablo Milanés
‘Yolanda’ is a gorgeous love ballad by Pablo Milanés. While this song’s music does not feature any prominent Latin musical hallmarks, it more than makes up for it with lyrics full of passion and heartfelt expressions. The song is about finding and maintaining true love with someone’s soul mate. The lyrics detail how profoundly the singer has been affected by love. This powerful change results in a pledge of love beyond mere sentiment.
Related: Have you found eternal love yet? Here’s our playlist of songs about finding the one.
Sábanas Blancas – Omara Portuondo
Omara Portuondo is a famous Cuban dancer and singer whose career was launched as a member of Cuarteto d’Aida. Her career has stretched over seventy years, and she has had many collaborations with other Cuban artists. ‘Sábanas Blancas,’ which translates to “White Sheets,” is a love song dedicated to Cuba. Using language as if she is speaking to a lover, the lyrics affirm how much she loves her homeland.
Guantanamera – Celia Cruz
The late Celia Cruz is considered one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century. Her fifty-plus-year career began in Cuba. ‘Guantanamera’ is one of the most famous Cuban songs and is translated as “(The Woman) from Guantánamo.” This song’s popularity has made it the most famous of all Cuban patriotic songs. The lyrics were adapted from the work of Cuban poet and Revolutionary hero Jose Marti.
Pataki de Libertad – Buena Fe
Buena Fe is a Cuban pop music duo that began in 1999. Their band name can be translated into English as either “good faith” or “goodwill.” The title of the song ‘Pataki de Libertad’ translates as “Pataki of freedom.” A Pataki is a story from the diaspora religion called Santeria, which is Cuban in origin and inspired by African religions. Patakis are a type of story comparable to a parable found within the Christian faith.
Créeme – Vicente Feliú
Vicente Feliú was a famous Cuban guitarist, singer, and songwriter. In addition to performing worldwide, he composed music for various plays and television shows. The song ‘Créeme’ can be translated as ‘Cream’ and is a love song. The song is written to someone the singer loves and makes various promises that no matter how long they are apart or how far the distance, their love will work.
Related: If your love is far away, you’ll enjoy these distance songs.
Hace Calor en la Habana – Habana Abierta
Habana Abierta is a Cuban band that emerged from Cuba’s 1990 music and art scene. Within two years of beginning as a band, they quickly gained popularity. They played dozens of gigs in their native Cuba and internationally in Spanish-speaking countries. Since the 90s, their popularity has only increased with individual band members releasing solo albums and having solo careers. Their song ‘Hace Calor en la Habana’ is translated into English as “it’s hot in Havana.”
Related: It’s heating up on our playlist of songs about heat.
Yiri Yiri Bon (Son) – El Cuarteto Patria and Eliades Ochoa
‘Yiri Yiri Bon (Son)’ is a 2000 song that is a collaboration between the guitarist and singer Eliades with the band El Cuarteto Patria. The song is a celebration of Cuba’s culture and art. The song mentions essential parts of Cuban culture, which include coffee, tobacco, and of course, their music. The music of this song is relaxed and features impressive guitar work by Ochoa.
Ojos Negros – Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa
‘Ojos Negros,’ or “black eyes,” is a collaboration between the singer and songwriter Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa. The song’s lyrics are narrative in nature and concern the eyes of a sad woman. The singer seems to be asking the woman what has made her sad and then explores several possible reasons why she is feeling the way that she does.
Maria Cristina – Vieja Trova Santiaguera
All the band members of Vieja Trova Santiaguera, which formed in 1994, were veterans of Cuba’s music scene who together formed a band that was successful enough to begin touring in Europe, where they became even more popular than in their home country. The song’s lyrics seem to describe a very unhealthy and toxic relationship the lead singer is in. While the nature of the relationship is not revealed, it is clear the woman is domineering and bossy.
Related: See similar songs on our playlist of songs about toxic relationships.
Bibisa – Roberto Fonseca
Roberto Fonseca is a famous Cuban jazz pianist. Growing up in a family in which everyone was involved with music, it was no surprise that he would start to study piano at age eight and began to play at festivals while he was a teenager. After earning a master’s degree from a performance school, he left Cuba to pursue more musical opportunities and to try to perfect his craft and sound.
La Tirana – La Lupe
La Lupe was a famous Cuban singer known for energetic and controversial performances. In the 1960s, she was part of the exiles to leave Cuba due to the Revolution. In leaving her home country, she was able to find greater success in the United States and other countries. Lupe’s song ‘La Tirana’ is sung after a breakup with a cruel and abusive man who blames every issue of their relationship upon the woman who is singing.
Bacalao con Pan – Chucho Valdés and Irakere
Formed in 1973, Irakere became a Grammy award-winning Afro-Cuban jazz band. Chucho Valdes is a famous pianist, composer, and bandleader who was an original founding member of Irakere. After decades of playing together, Chucho left the band in 1997 and was replaced by his son, who then took over playing piano and being the director and leader of the group.
Tumba Palo Cocuye – Afro-Cuban All Stars
The Afro-Cuban All Stars, as the name suggests, is a collection of some of the greatest music performers from Cuba. The various musicians bring a variety of influences and a wide range of genres that have helped the band develop its unique sound and discography. The band was initially intended to be an experiment combining the music of Cuban and African musicians. Still, after the selected African musicians had difficulty getting visas, the band was retooled to focus on Cuban music.
Como Fué – Benny Moré
The late Benny Moré had a significant influence on Cuban music. Moré’s talents included composing music and singing with a clear tenor voice which he could manipulate to great effect in a wide variety of music. ‘Como Fué’ is translated into English to mean “how it was” and is a song that is about falling in love. The singer expresses that he cannot articulate how exactly but quickly falls in love with who he is singing to.
¿Cambiará? – X Alfonso
X Alfonso is a hip-hop artist and Afro-Cuban musician who played with Audioslave at a concert in Havana. Besides music, he is known for his video editing skills. He wrote the song ‘¿Cambiará?’ which means “switch to?” The song itself is a political song about how easy it is to see the ideal world but the extreme difficulty found in trying to reach the ideal due to the corruption of politics.