The Roots of Rapture

Afro-Cuban roots band Aina Candela reawakens the old spirits of Latin fusion

Aina Candela might want to think about changing the name of its new weekly show at Jazid from "Cooltura" to "Trance Tuesdays." After all, lead singer and percussionist Philbert Armenteros's mixture of modern instrumentation and an intense flurry of traditional Cuban percussion has been known to propel his audiences into rapturously spiritual planes. But be forewarned: This can be a jarring, transformative experience for the uninitiated. Several weeks ago, one woman sporting stiff office attire jumped up, pranced around on the dance floor, and found herself bending and swaying into nearly convulsive fits.

"Sometimes people become possessed by the orisha [deity] you belong to, so the drummer is there to guide that experience," explained Aina guitarist José Elias, noting the music should always be a celebration and affirmation of life.

The group, whose name means "fire" in Yoruba, is composed of Elias, Armenteros, and a rotating cast of guest musicians. Since its inception four years ago, when the members played at only Afro roots festivals, the fiery ensemble has forgone novelty and concentrated on resurrecting the movement's deepest Afro-Caribbean inspiration. This back-to-basics approach has made Aina's weekly show at Jazid one of the most acclaimed nights in Miami's Latin fusion movement.

"The music is so profound, so powerful that the energy flowing through you takes on a spiritual meaning. It opens doors regardless of the language because of the universal energy it has," Elias said.

 
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