"It's always merengue, merengue, merengue," laments Miami-based Dominican artist Charo Oquet, who is bent on letting local audiences know there is more to her native culture than that hyperactive Latin-radio sound. The third annual Dominican Youth Arts Festival features a performance by musicians from the Dominican Republic who are dedicated to reviving some of the country's lesser-known, African-rooted rhythms: palos, gaga, and sarandunga, to name a few. Luis Diaz, Irka Mateo, and Edis Sanchez will perform and discuss their music today at noon at FIU's Graham Center (University Park Campus, SW Eighth Street and 107th Avenue). Dancer Marilyn Gallardo will also perform. The festival, organized by the nonprofit Miami Arts Collaborative (which Oquet directs) in conjunction with the Rhythm Foundation, also includes a discussion about contemporary Dominican identity with historian Frank Moya Pons, El Nuevo Herald journalist Marcia Facundo, and others at noon Saturday at the Wolfsonian-FIU (1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach). And an exhibition of Oquet's striking photographs documenting Afro-Dominican culture will be at the Espanola Way Exhibition Space (1441 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) through August 25. All events are free. Call 305-538-2184. (JC)
Expose yourself to more Afro-Caribbean culture and help raise some funds for the Miami Beach-based Iroko Dance and Performance Center, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting the art forms of Cuba and the African diaspora, at Ache: A Night of Afro-Cuban Descarga. The bash takes place tonight at 8:00 at 724 NE 82nd St., Miami Shores, the home of chef Charles T. Salliou, who also lends his cooking skills to the cause by preparing a complimentary Caribbean buffet. Cuban saxophonist Carlos Averhoff, world music band Oriente, and the Iroko Afro-Cuban Dance Theater will perform. The works of local artists will also be on display and sold to the highest bidders during a silent auction. Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Call 305-609-9141. (NK)
Here are a few sure things about summer in Miami: broiling temperatures, stifling humidity, and a dearth of outdoor folk music shows. The minute the summer solstice rolls around, folkies, usually so enamored of performing among the trees and flowers, opt for the air-conditioned comforts of the great indoors. Tonight at 9:00 the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center (11155 SW 112th St., bldg. three) hosts a cool folk concert, dubbed a Summer Coffeehouse. On the bill: acoustic folk rockers Legacy and songwriter-vocalist Amy Carol Webb. Also provided: fresh-baked goodies and steaming cups of java (for those in need of warming up?). Tickets cost eight dollars. Space is limited, so call 305-271-9000, ext. 268, for reservations. (NK)
On her new CD Congo Ayiti Afrika, popular Haitian singer Carole Demesmin (best known for her recording of "Papa Gede Bel Gason") mixes Haitian folk songs and spirituals (Demesmin is a manbo, or Vodou priestess) with calypso, jazz, and salsa. Tonight she sings in French and Creole, backed by a small acoustic group, during a CD-release party at Tap Tap restaurant (819 Fifth St., Miami Beach). Attendees are encouraged to dress "a la Leoganaise" -- in colorful, festive, peasant-style garb -- recalling festivals in the party-hearty Haitian province Leogan. And Tap Tap chef Jean L. Chery will whip up a special menu for the event. Festivities begin at 9:00 p.m. There is no cover charge. For dinner reservations and information call 305-672-2898. (JC)
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The good folks at Shake-a-Leg usually concern themselves with teaching the physically challenged the ropes (or would that be "sheets"?) of sailing. Today, however, they are dedicating themselves to getting anyone and everyone out on the water. In conjunction with the nationwide campaign, National Go-Sailing Day, created to promote sailing and to benefit the Leukemia Society of America, Shake-a-Leg will offer sailboat rides, boating demonstrations, various activities, and plenty of refreshments to all those who are interested in learning more about the sport. The event runs from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at 2600 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove. Admission is free, except for the sailboat rides, which will set you back ten dollars. Call 305-858-5550. (NK)
Very recently the prospects for survival were rather grim for Health Crisis Network (HCN), a group that offered counseling, case management, referral services, and more to people affected by HIV. But HCN has rebounded from its financial tangles by merging with the Community Research Initiative (CRI), a research-based team whose mission is to help local AIDS patients get access to promising new treatments. The bigger, stronger organization has been renamed CAresource (Community AIDS Resource) and pledges to provide a wider range of services to those in need. Tonight they stage their first fundraiser, Toast Toward a Cure, at Red Square, 411 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The fare includes a variety of wines, microbrewed beers, cordials, and delicious food from China Grill, the Blue Door, and Red Square itself. Tickets cost $35 in advance, $40 at the door. Call 305-667-9296. (NK)
Canadian-born comic actor Scott Thompson is ubiquitous. He has starred in two films, Brain Candy and Hijacking Hollywood. He was a series regular on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, where he played Brian, the beleaguered assistant to Larry's smarmy sidekick Hank Kingsley. He even established his own Website (scottland.com). But he began his career on the comedy-skit TV show The Kids in the Hall. Originating on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the show ran for six years on CBS and HBO and can still be seen in reruns on the cable network Comedy Central. Thompson created many eccentric characters on Kids, most notably Buddy Cole, the vitriolic barfly who dispenses bits of wisdom from his stool. Buddy admirers will be glad to know that Thompson, who recently wrote a book, Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography of Buddy Cole, is coming to town to perform his new stand-up act, "Mixology Monology," tonight and tomorrow at the Improv, 3399 Virginia St. (Streets of Mayfair), Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $15. Call 305-441-8200 for showtimes. (NK)
Mix one part Oprah Winfrey, one part Gloria Vanderbilt, and a big dose of super diva and you have today's Patti LaBelle. The multi-octave high priestess of good vibrations is working more than her vocal chords these days. She recently introduced her own lipstick and nail polish line, created her own perfume, and released a book. But all the frenzied activity hasn't put a crimp in her touring schedule: She graced the stage of the James L. Knight Center (400 SE Second Ave.) exactly eight months ago (November 29), and she returns tonight at 7:00, looking and smelling almost as good as she sounds. Tickets cost $40.75 and $45.75. Call 305-372-4634. (