Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 1997

Los Van Van

One sure-fire way to break down the wall that still blockades Cuba is to admit Cuban musicians into this country, so they can light a fire under your booty. This will happen when Los Van Van, Cuba's most popular dance band, hits the stage on these shores to serve us a fiery dose of Songo, an imaginitive fusion of Cuban and Caribbean rhythms with jazz and rock. Distinguished by the rhythmic forms of violins and a rhythmic and harmonious bass guitar that works closely with the piano, Songo breaks with the formulas used in most Cuban popular music.

While the repitoire of salsa bands from New York and Puerto Rico tend to be dominated by love songs, composer (and bassist) Juan Formell's songs often address the difficulties of Cuban daily life, with a sense of humor and infectious rhythms that provide a temporary antidote. It is refreshing, indeed, to experience all 15 pieces of Los Van Van, which includes two violinists and dancers. Maybe Los Van Van can be the wrecking ball which shatters the wall after all.

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