Revolution is often sparked by the simplest of weapons -- a voice, a guitar, a message. Such is the tradition of trova, an acoustic musical movement that blossomed in revolutionary Cuba and spread through South America in the 1970s. Also known as nueva trova and nueva cancion, its heroes, Cubans Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes and Chileans Victor Jarra and Violeta Parra, ignited a countercultural wave whose ripples were felt throughout Spanish-speaking countries just as politically charged 1960s American rock was giving way to the pop-ish delights of Tony Orlando and Dawn, Carly Simon, and the Captain and Tennille.
Rooted in bolero and the Cuban son, trova is romantic, political, and poetic. Tobacco Road, Miami's oldest venue featuring live music, may be the next place where the stirring song stylings will wield their bohemian influence. For the past few months a group of locals has jammed together each Wednesday night during an event known as Video Trova.
Anchored by Cuban-born singer/ songwriter Roberto Poveda, this relaxed evening proves that contemporary Latin-American music, particularly Cuban music, is not solely defined by hip-grinding merengue or salsa. Trova reaches beyond the hair-brained sensibilities of Latin crossover pop phenoms Ricky Martin, Shakira, and Gloria Estefan.
Talented, passionate troubadours, raw and honest, can be heard with guitarist Poveda, who regularly hosts a stable of young and hungry musicians yet to get their big break. Machito, Los Bloomers, and percussionist Rock-n-Cha trade sets tirelessly, often playing until 2:00 a.m. While some might describe them as rockeros (rock and roll musicians who sing in Spanish), Poveda and his crew are more the beneficiaries of the Seventies nueva trova movement. The Miami trovistas, mostly recent arrivals from Cuba, reach back to early musical styles, forging a fresh sound in a city whose Latin music gets progressively plastic.
With his sweet, soulful voice and good looks, Poveda has the marketable air of an up-and-coming pop star. Yet he remains committed to the songs and manner he has developed listening to influences as varied as Milanes, Rodriguez, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. Poveda left Cuba in 1989 and landed in Colombia, where he gigged as a musician and acted in soap operas. He arrived in Miami five years ago and has since been writing songs and collaborating with a group of musicians who live and work in the area.
Local music fans hungry for an alternative look at Miami's Latin rhythms should check out this quaint and friendly event. But don't expect a multimedia extravaganza just yet. The "video" component of the trova shindig was supposed to feature concurrent movies, videos, or slides screening behind the musicians and tape rolling to capture the action. Technical difficulties, it's said, but supposedly that portion of the show is being ironed out. That can only mean one thing: The revolution may soon be televised.