Miami's Tiempo Libre won a small victory at this year's Grammys just by grabbing a nomination for Best Tropical Latin Album.
The group's indie album Lo Que Esperabas (What You've Been Waiting For) was pitted against discs by bands armed with Sony and Univision contracts. Tiempo Libre didn't win, but according to the bandmates' music director/arranger, Jorge Gomez, they are aiming for loftier goals than accepting awards during the commercial breaks that come between the "real" award presentations. "Although we're Latinos and play Latin music, we mostly play for non-Spanish-speaking audiences," Gomez elaborates. "We're taking timba -- something that even a lot of Latin music fans aren't really familiar with -- and introducing it in places where not many Latinos live."
Timba is a Cuban cousin of salsa, sharing the same son roots but tending to embrace a wide variety of genres, including classical music, nueva trova, Latin jazz, disco, funk, and hip-hop. In practice it's a tribal, joyful, genial vibe that demonically possesses the body from the waist down.
The band is certainly going places, having just flown back from a sold-out concert in Turkey. But the seven musicians' favorite destination is Miami, where they gather at their conga player's house for games of dominoes while Yellowjackets records blast in the background. They all grew up together in Cuba, and each member has his own personal story of how and when he left. "The amazing thing is that we all found each other again," Gomez says. "Luckily word of mouth is pretty much instantaneous when a Cuban musician arrives in Miami."
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