Of all the tributes offered to the inimitable Celia Cruz over the past week, perhaps the most moving was that of Descemer Bueno, frontman of the band Siete Rayos (Seven Lightning Bolts). Readers might recognize Bueno's name as a composer, arranger, and vocalist on Yerba Buena's celebrated debut CD President Alien
. You won't recognize his face, though, as the singer-songwriter split with the group before the album was released. Undaunted, Bueno formed his own group that, not surprisingly, also has a playful approach to serious musical fusion. In fact Siete Rayos is even more so, if that is possible, as Bueno makes songs out of the most mundane situations: collecting toy cars as a kid or taking the train from New York to Miami. Whimsical subject matter and something like stream-of-consciousness lyrics fit well with the band's wide-open approach to genre. It's as though the outfit walked through a room full of Cuban son
, roots reggae, and Detroit doo-wop and the sounds came together naturally.
Last Friday night, Bueno opened the band's Miami debut on a serious note. Against the backdrop of images of a ruined Havana, he dedicated the concert to la guarachera del mundo. Then in an unconsciously accented English, over Afro-Cuban percussion and a keyboard riff straight out of vintage Prince, he sang the song "Havana": "My heart is breaking/If I never see you again."