By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By Kat Bein
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
A Cuban music festival in Miami — now that's original, eh? But really, anyone who has spent an extended period of time around Cubans (and that would be just about all of us here in South Florida) knows there's no limit to their musical innovation. This month local nonprofits FUNDarte and Miami Light Project open the stage to the many manifestations of cubanismo with the presentation of its Global Cuba Fest. During a series of six Sunday concerts, Cuban émigrés who relocated to places as near as Little Havana and as far as Madrid dabble in the diverse sounds of their homeland and the colorful hodgepodge of genres they picked up in the diaspora.
In fact the opening act is evidence of the rest of the world's reception to that multifaceted sound. While virtually unheard of in Miami, Overproof — with its slick mix of rock, funk, jazz, and timba — has won record deals with Japan's EWE and Spain's Sonifolk labels. No wonder — the combined resumé of this talented trio includes long stints as collaborators with Irakere, Los Van Van, Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, and Marc Anthony. But theirs is a mod-vintage groove all its own, and, boy, is it danceable, compadre — you might even call it wah-whanco.
"The acts in this festival represent a new [generation] of U.S.-based Cuban musicians who aren't necessarily well known but who can offer new perspectives on interpreting Cuban music," says Overproof guitarist Octavio Kotan. Amen to that. Months after its first reunion concert in more than a decade, Artevivo returns to Miami with its irreverent symphonic rock. Tiempo Libre picks up the pace with some hyperactive timba; the Dafnis Prieto Quartet slows it back down with a smooth, steady jazz; and troubadours Gema y Pavel delicately strum the public's heartstrings with their Iberian-influenced neo-filin. Finally local Afro-Cuban outfit Los Herederos channel the island's innate spirituality with an explosion of rumba, guaguanco, and timba, sung both in Spanish and the more ancient ancestral tongue of Yoruba.
"Perhaps it's rare to see all those genres grouped together in one single event," says FUNDarte's director, Ever Chavez. "But we believe that [Cuban music's] success is in the diversity."