For nearly two decades the man with the ever-present tan, a closetful of ruffled carnival shirts, and lightning-quick conga-beating hands has served as the opening act for countless international performers inside one of Miami Beach's most famed ballrooms. But Gaby Gabriel's task goes beyond warming up the stage for the likes of Willy Chirino, Julio Iglesias, Albita, and the late Celia Cruz. The Cuban-born orquesta leader/vocalist/percussionist delights the masses on a nightly basis with his self-produced cabaret-style shows. One minute he'll be hitting a low note on Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and swaying to the music with the accompanying dancers, and the next he'll be banging on the congas at full speed. As much a part of the Magic City as palm trees and beaches, Gabriel has had cameo appearances in movies (Just Cause with Sean Connery) and videos (Will Smith's "Miami"). -- Fernando Ruano, Jr.
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