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Concert reports - Abriendo Caminos

The evening of the release concert for the new CD "Abriendo Caminos" was more than just a concert, it was an event with film, dinner, a floor show and...oh yes, the concert. Organized by bandleader and trombonist Andrés "El Paísa" Fernández it was held at an Antwerp theater which is used by the latino community in the area. It is an intimate venue with room for only about 200 people. With the fan base that Contrabando has built up, it would have been advisable to have found a larger venue, but that is really the only complaint  one could have about the evening.

cuban music, musica cubanaAndrés Fernández "El Paísa" & bassist Dennis Niclas

The first stage of the event was a film festival in minature with two short documentaries. The room was filled to capacity and those of us who didn't get a seat were left standing around the edges of the room. In fact I nearly fell down when someone opened the door I was leaning against. Andres Lubbert's documentary "Déjame Entrar" was filmed while the band was in the process of recording "Abriendo Caminos", and is a realistic and honest look at the lives of the bandmembers. The humble day-jobs of many of the bandmembers contrasted sharply with their professionalism and stage persona when they were in their true element performing later that night.

The films were followed by a dinner in the restaurant housed in the same building. In keeping with the theme it was carne asado and arroz congrí albiet not prepared by a Cuban, but still. During the dinner we were entertained by a Cuban street performer who mixes comic son with a remarkable crystal ball rolling-balancing routine. You have to see it to know what I mean, but it was impressive and a lot of fun.

Finally it was time for the main event. As the fans all crowded into the room now thankfully devoid of chairs, I noticed that the guys had placed an Eleguá at the back of the stage. They take it seriously when they say "Abriendo Caminos". So with Eleguá opening the road for them, they took the stage starting with a little jazzy intro that segued into "Mi Orquesta", the opening song from the new CD. Fernando Blanco Moya "La Jabao" has been with El Paísa since the beginning and sang lead on nine of the thirteen songs that night and is also the composer of two of the new songs: "Siempre tú" and "Mi turno". An experienced singer, he plays the role of the sonero among the singers.

cuban music, musica cubanaFernando & Dennis (bass)

Daniel López followed with a merensongo that was actually recorded by Pepito Gómez on the CD. It is called "Solo un beso" and I think you can guess what it is about. It has that strong "meren" feel to it that gives it a more pan-Caribbean sound. Contrabando is specifically trying to incorportae different Cuban rhythms that they feel are a bit neglected in Cuba these days such as  merensongo and mambo. "The Crazy Mambo" is one of these and was the third song of the evening. Rubén Valles did a nice little sax solo.

cuban music, musica cubanaRubén "El frutero" Valle

Fernando's "Mi Turno" has a son feel at the start, great for dancing contratiempo and picks up at the montuno. Contrabando has some hot contrapuntal mambos that take full advantage of the horn section with trombone, trumpet and saxophone. Well you can check it out youselves by clicking on the media player below. I think you'll enjoy it!

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"Déjame Entrar", the song that gave the documentary its name, was in Danielito's hands. It iis "new" but is a song that is already familar to the fans who have heard it performed in concerts prior to the CD release. It has a fast tempo that will have you sweating on the dancefloor.

cuban music, musica cubanaPierre Malempre (trumpet) & Daniel

Victor's first song of the evening was "Poco a poco". He looked really familar to me, although I don't know for sure where I've seen him before. He has worked with La Charanga Forever and Gardi, among other groups, so I suppose it was on one of those occasions. He has that young, charanguero air about him and is more likely to be doing pelvis thrusts to the efectos than either Fernando or Danielito.

cuban music, musica cubanaVictor, Amel and Mark

Next came Fernando singing "El Frutero" written by saxophonist Rubén Valles and the origin of his apellido. It's a very Cuban text with a  "compra si vas a comprar" coro and some nice percussion efectos and fills and a short trumpet solo by Rubén Hernández. We got more solos in the descarga "Toca la clave". I would love to dance to this sometime but since I was holding my video camera I had to try to hold still as best I could. El Paísa, Amel (congas) and Sebastian (timbales) all did some tasty solos.

cuban music, musica cubanaRubén Hernández

Fernando sang lead on the next two songs: "Confianza", a religious song where they paid tribute to the Orishas, and "Siempre tú" the salsa version. There is also is bachata version on the CD ,and as you may have guessed it is a romantic song. The most timbero song of the evening was also the final song that they presented from the new album, "Mentiras". Victor sang lead on this one dancing  a lo cubano to the gear changes. Click on the video below to see Victor in action.

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This was not the end of the concert however. After presenting us the entire new album El Paísa took a moment to thank the peole who had made this journey of blood, sweat and tears possible: the families, the friends, the padrinos and of course the fans. It was an emotional moment and when El Paísa's voice broke I understood just how much this night meant to him and the band. And with that they slipped into a hit from their first CD "María".  El Paísa presented each of the band members and everyone got a chance to do a bit of a solo but finally it was over, the lights dimmed and the band letf the stage.

Of courre the fans weren't ready to say goodnight so the yelled otra untill the guys came back and did "La Vida", a sort of salsa-reaggaeton that has been popular with fans for years. When it was all over the band celebrated with champagne and many fans came backstage to give their regards. Out in the hallway people were buying the CD and El Paísa obliged by signing autographs. Here is a little video montage of what went on after the show.  Leoni (drums) and Amel (congas) could probably also get work as a comedy duo.

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I believe that with the new CD, which is currently only available as hard copy at FNAC and in digital format at Latin Pulse Music, the band will reach new fans and will hopefully be playing soon in a town near you soon.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:31 AM