Squawk Radio

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Liz Brings Hot Music to a Cold Day

As I write this blog, it’s fifteen degrees outside and we have snow in our yard. Last night, instead of turning off the electric blanket when I went to bed because it had done its job of warming the mattress, I left it on so it could keep warming me. Both cats slept with us because it’s so !@#$%ing cold outside.

Yep, sounds like it’s time to break out the salsa music.

“Cubanismo” is a word used to refer to anything that is distinctly Cuban, which this band surely is. Fronted by the EXcellent trumpet player Jesus Allemany, who began performing in Cuba as a teenager, the band’s roots lie in a form of music called “son,” described at PBS.org as “the meeting of the African and Spanish elements that gave birth to what we know today as ‘tropical’ music (salsa, rumba, Latin jazz, or ‘Afro-Cuban’).” With more than a dozen musicians playing, Cubanismo employs all of these rhythms and more in their music. And BOY, is it wonderful.

I loved salsa before I moved to Puerto Rico in 1987, but living there really cemented that love. You can’t escape music in the Caribbean--it’s everywhere you go. Bars and restaurants, naturally, but also on the beaches and in the streets. We’d walk down Ashford Avenue in the Condado on hot, sultry nights, and there would be salsa flowing from open-air bars, one right after the other, and then, suddenly, you’d see a band jamming on the sidewalk. At night, we’d lie in bed and hear the music blaring from car stereos below us. And it is such happy, infectious music, you can’t help but smile and dance. (Even when you’re in bed trying to sleep.)

Horns and percussion are what really hit you when you first listen, but other instruments like flute and piano and bass also make their way into the mix with Cubanismo. (And other Latin bands, too.) And there is heat. Lots and lots of heat. With Cubanismo and its big-band sound, it is heat that immediately carries you away from the snow and fifteen !@#$%ing degrees to a pre-Castro Cuba full of smoky nightclubs and elegant white-suited men dancing with ladies who have hothouse flowers tucked behind their ears. I feel like Carmen Miranda when I listen to Cubanismo. So today, everybody, no matter the weather, the rum and Cokes are on me.

C’mon! Everybody mambo!
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:54 AM