Gwen Kallio The Afro News Vancouver
Fans of Cuban music in its many and varied forms are more than aware that in the 1990’s, North America “rediscovered” the vibrant rhythms and music of that island through the release of the recording and Vim Vender’s film on the Buena Vista Social Club project. The man behind this gathering-together was a musician, producer, bandleader and impresario who continues his mission to share the wealth, diversity and vitality of Cuban music with the world. While many of the Buena Vista artists are no longer with us, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez’ vision has continued with the Afro-Cuban All Stars, a rotating roster of stellar Cuban artists – and he brings the latest incarnation of that big band to play the Chan Centre on November 14th The current lineup of the 12-piece Cuban orchestra developed from de Marcos’ desire to tour the United States, which he did after a five-year compulsory ‘hiatus’in a triumphant 38-city tour earlier this year. In 2002, US politics slammed the door in the face of some of Latin music’s most adored artists. Says de Marcos, “We used to perform in the U.S. every year starting in 1994, when I went for the first time with my group, Sierra Maestra. We toured the whole country. Then musicians from Buena Vista started to tour with great success and their own bands we put together, for many years. But in 2003, everything stopped.” To renew the connection with US audiences, de Marcos brought together the cream of Cuba’s expatriate musicians – friends and long-time collaborators who happen to live abroad and therefore not subject to INS restrictions for Cuban residents traveling to and performing in the U.S.
For this fall’s 17-date Canadian tour, the project continues with a gathering of Cuban musicians from around the world, including two that are Vancouver-based! In putting together a band culled from the cream of the Cuban diaspora around the globe, de Marcos has aimed to find not only great musicians with the right passports, but also just good people with the right energy. “This band will sound and even behave exactly like one coming straight from Havana,” says de Marcos with a laugh. “Cubans never change and if you’ve been in Miami you’d know what I mean; dominos, mojitos, pork, chicharrónes, and all!”