2015 Salsa Rueda Festival - San Francisco - February 19-22 - Hotel Whitcomb - Biggest Cuban Dance Festival in the U.S.A.

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jueves, 04 diciembre 2014, 01:33 am

45 Years of Los Van Van

Another major milestone for El Tren - but sadly the first without their founder.

The big news, of course, is the release of La fantasía. By my count, this is the 26th album of new material. We have: the 15 original EGREM albums, released as La colección; the 5 masterpieces of the 90s, Malecón (has several new originals), Chapeando, Arrasando, La maquinaria and now La fantasía.

At timba.com we have a lovingly prepared recounting of the first first decade and its historical context, a more general surveyon the 80s that includes mini-reviews of all Van Van's releases, and a complete discography.

The Van Van story is also told in parts in the Beyond Salsa series. BS Piano, Vol. 3 covers the first decade, Vol. 10 runs from 1979-1983, Vol. 11 from 1984-1987, Vol. 12 from 1988 to Pupy's departure in 2001. I've yet to write a book on the post-2001 period, but it's coming.

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martes, 02 diciembre 2014, 10:47 pm

Beyond Salsa on Los Van Van

Tom Ehrlich on Klímax, Gente de Zona & Fonseca

Here's the latest Beyond Salsa video - in honor of Van Van's upcoming 45th Anniversary (actually it just turned out that way ...). And three new galleries from Tom Ehrlich: Klímax in SF-Pt. 2Roberto Fonseca and Gente de Zona in Oakland.

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lunes, 01 diciembre 2014, 02:59 pm

Premios Lucas 2014

Ian Padrón Wins Big

Se bota a matar

The Premios Lucas (Lucas Awards) are Cuba's video awards. The past few years have seen an explosion of Cuban music on the Internet and the Premios Lucas have been an important part of this movement. The official website brings together and tracks the most popular videos in Cuba. It is an excellent source for those of us living outside Cuba to keep up with what is popular on the island. In addition, every year fans can vote for their favorite video as part of the Premios Lucas. The Premios Lucas also have an active Facebook page that you can "Like" in order to keep up on what is happening in Cuban video. This may help you understand how popular the premios Lucas are in Cuba: they sold out all 2500 tickets and set up big screen TVs outside the Karl Marx theater where about 1000 people went to watch the performances and the awards.

The ceremony included performances by Buena Fe & Havana Queens, David Blanco, Yuli y Havana C, El Niño y La Verdad, Charanga Latina, Haila, Osamu, Waldo Mendoza and Los Ángeles, among others. There were tributes to Juan Formell and Santiago Feliú and EGREM was presented with a special award for its 50 year anniversary. The show was closed by Alexander Abreu & Havana D'Primera performing "Me dicen Cuba", which was given a special recognition prize by the Premios Lucas.

The big winner last night was filmaker Ian Padrón and Buena Fe who won Best Production, Best Fusion Video and Best Video of the Year for the song "Se bota a matar" from the album "Dial". The video features the dancers from "Havana Queens, who also participated in the beautiful video "La culpla", also from "Dial".

Buena Fe feat. Havana Queens "Se bota a matar" from the CD "Dial"
Director Ián Padrón

The category closest to our hearts at Timba.com is "Popular Dance Music" and the winner was José Rojas for "Que no que no" by JG (you know him, his name is Juan Guillermo) from his last album "Que no me controlen".

JG "Que no, que no" from the album "Que no me controlen"
Director José Rojas

Other winners in dance categories include Alejandro Pérez and El Micha for Best Reggaeton for "Bla bla bla", Manuel Ortega and Los Ángeles won Most Popular Video for "Besando tu boca" and Joseph Ros and Sexto Sentido for "Brujas". Alejandro Pérez also won for Best Traditional and Folkloric Video and Best Photography with "Alcé mi voz" by Ivette Cepeda. Best Choreography went to Sadaise Arencibia who choreographed both the original Descemer Bueno & Gente D'Zona version of "Bailando" and the Enrique Iglesias version. For more about the Premios Lucas 2014 visit their website (in Spanish).

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domingo, 30 noviembre 2014, 05:06 am

LOS VAN VAN - LA FANTASIA

On Sale December 5th

Los Van Van - La Fantasia

At a press conference on November 29th, Samuel Formell announced that Los Van Van will release their tribute to Juan Formell - "La fantasía" - on Friday, December 5th at the final concert of their national tour, which will be held at the steps of the University of Havana. This will be only one day after the band celebrates its 45th anniversary.

The new CD - recorded at Estudios de 18 EGREM - contains 14 tracks with compositions and arrangements by Juan Formell, Samuel Formell, Juan Carlos Formell, Boris Luna, Jorge Leliebre, Pacho Chibás, Robertón, Mandy Cantero and Juan Ballestero. Alexander Abreu makes an appearance with a brilliant trumpet solo on track 14 - "Soy Van Van". Various DJs have posted short sections of some of the songs, and I am going to say that from what I have heard, I believe that "La fantasía" will be Van Van's strongest album since "Chapeando". Samuel has the daunting task of taking the helm of Cuba's most famous musical instituion, and all indications are that his father prepared him well by making him musical director several years ago. El tren va por buen camino. 

As we were discussing the new album via e-mail, Kevin made the following observations on the subject of remakes, of which "La fantasía" contains two.

Kevin Moore:
1) "Es mucho" is from vol. 5 - 1979 - I think I'm on firm ground in saying the vols 5 & 6 were by far the worst sounding Van Van albums but had some great songs that were unjustly debuted with bad recordings - thus, re-recording anything from those (especially "La rumba no está completa" and "El montuno" - which they've already done and which are two amazing tracks) is a great idea because now Van Van has world-class singing and infinitely better recording capabilities.

2) "Me basta con pensar" started as the B-side bolero of the early 70s single "Que se sepa" - neither of which ever got onto an official album - unless the version Omara did of the A-side with them did got onto one, but "Me basta" was turned into an uptempo arrangement in 1990 for Los Van Van - not by Formell, but by Pupy (this only happened twice and both were masterpieces in my opinion). That version of "Me basta" contains within it - among many other things - the seeds of Manolito y su Trabuco's whole harmonic sello - it sounds like late 90s Trabuco back when Manolito was still in Maravillas de Florida. It's a hugely important timba precursor and one of the best post-revolution tracks period in my opinion - no idea what the new one will be like, but it's definitely anything but a tired old song swept out of the closet for lack of creativity. I'm very curious to hear this whole album.

As are we all Kevin. The first thing I plan to do Friday morning is buy "La fantasía" from whichever on-line store uploads it first. I predict that it will be a great holiday gift for all the Cuban music fans on my list.

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