Caught Between Piety and Desire: An Interview with Author and Musician Ned Sublette

Ned Sublette is a lot of things—author and historian, singer-songwriter-guitarist, producer, radio commentator and occasional music critic. Mostly, he’s something of a trickster figure, popping up in various guises to inform, yes, but also to challenge our notions about music and culture, language and shared history, throughout the Western hemisphere. His 2007 book, “Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo,” has proven indispensible for me. His two books on New Orleans— “The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square” and “The Year Before the Flood” have informed my own immersion in that city’s culture. On his 1999 album, “Cowboy Rumba,” he reworked Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” with the great Cuban rumba group Los Muñequitos De Matanzas and turned “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” into a merengue. For “Kiss You Down South,” it’s just him, playing a Ramirez guitar and singing in a voice he rediscovered in New Orleans. (More on all that and an interview here.)

Image/Paula Court

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