A whole lotta Havana at home 

Valentin y Los del Caribe on their first overseas tour

Bt Dana Michell

Who: Valentin y Los del Caribe

Where: My Place

When: Wednesday, July 22

If you’ve ever been to Cuba, you’ve probably danced in the streets with sexy strangers who love to teach tourists how to move their hips and heels. You probably found yourself in a rustic, jam-packed club, brimming with bold rhythms and colourful costumes. And no doubt you bought at least a few CDs on the way home to complete that Caribbean and Cuban collection.

For those of you that haven’t made the trip to Havana or the party port of Varadero, we’ve got the next best thing coming your way – the 14-piece Cuban band, Valentin y Los del Caribe – appearing at MY Place on Wednesday night, July 22.

This band is about as Cuban as you can get without buying the plane ticket. Think Buena Vista Social Club with a younger, more sensual and spicy kick. Like their famous musical counterparts, the members of Valentin y Lod del Caribe speak minimal English but have universal appeal and world music passion down pat. Through interpreter and tour manager, Rita Albano, we spoke with musical director and composer for the group, Rene Amet Campos Artigas.

The award-winning group, honoured several times over in their home country for their professionalism, chose Canada as their first overseas stop. Their mission however is to eventually take their music to the world. After several weeks touring already, Artigas said that they have been mesmorised by the majestic mountains and the sight of snow. Despite the strange experience of walking in some summer sleet, Artigas said they haven’t lost their heat for the spicy vocals, tropical percussions and intense trumpets and trombones that make up their dynamic performance.

"We feel like we are ambassadors for Cuba. We are not just playing in a band. We are bringing our feelings, our temperament and our culture to the people of Canada and it’s so exciting," said Artigas in a deliciously tongue twirling accent that would make most women weak at the knees.

"Our show is like you – beautiful," he adds. Oh stop it Rene! Okay I’ll be there. Front row.

He continues: "Our show has a lot of joy, a lot of heat and energy and wonderful choreography and colourful costumes. We combine that with a very high quality of musicianship and, most importantly, a lot of respect for Canadians who we have always had a good reception from."

Valentin y Los Del Caribe are well known in Cuba as one of the top three orchestras performing in the resort town of Varadero. With many Canadians making a stop there, the Great White North was a logical progression for the talented troupe.

"The reception we get from Canadians is always very positive. They are interested in the sounds and appreciate the high quality of musicianship," said Artigas.

Tour manager Rita Albano agrees. "The musical training in Cuba is of a very superior standard. They develop their musicians very young and take their playing very seriously. But it’s happy music, with loads of spirit and something everyone can relate to."

MY Place jumped at the chance to host the group, who’ll come fresh from this weekend’s Vancouver Folk Festival, where they’ll share the stage with big international names like Micheal Franti & Spearhead, Ani de Franco, and Billy Bragg.

"Latin music affects people like no other form of music. It seems to transcend fashion, trends and generations and fly straight into everyone’s soul," said MY Place marketing manager, Gillie Easdon. "The rhythms are unavoidable, the voices are penetrating and the dancing, entrancing. Latin music is beyond infectious."

From the cha cha to the salsa, the merengue and the timbe, Valentin y Los Del Caribe will bring a suitcase of over 100 orginal compositions. Thousands of people from Cuba and the Mexican resorts of Santa Lucia, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco can’t be wrong. These guys and girls swivelling and singing in eye-catching outfits are hot, hot, hot.

For the MY Place performance, dancing is expected, sexy attire encouraged and all ages most welcome. The show will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $20 for seniors and students – or $2 for Sea to Sky youth aged 8 to18 who purchase advance tickets themselves. For more info please visit www.oneworldartsproductions.com or call 604-935-8410.

CAPTION

"We feel like we are ambassadors for Cuba. We are not just playing in a band. We are bringing our feelings, our temperament and our culture to the people of Canada and it’s so exciting" — Rene Amet Campos Artigas.

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