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Kiki Valera - Vivencias en clave cubana - New Cuban Son album - Traditional Cuban Music

Love at First Sight for Italy

The Trip

There was a little confusion about what time the bus was supposed to leave. The schedule said 7:00 am, but the night before some of us were told we would be leaving at 12:00. You can imagine the feeling when the phone rings at 7:00 am and someone says, "We're loading up the bus now, where are you?". Time for a very quick shower but no breakfast.

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El desayuno era para la gente que se levantó con tiempo

The trip was expected to take about 9 hours. We hit the road and the guys started talking about plans for the next few days. Some of them were looking forward to doing the tourist thing. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually not in Rome, but Pisa. They were still a bit worn out from the trip from Rome but excited about the coming concert, which was to be the Italian Premier of Salsa Mayor.

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En camino otra vez

Things went pretty smoothly. We were only about 35 kilometers away from Lecce according to the road signs, when things went bad. The sign pointed one way, but the bus driver turned the other way. We drove around for a while and the next sign said 80 km to Lecce. Once again the driver turned a different direction than the sign pointed. We began to joke about this driving strategy. We got a good look at the olive groves in the area, in fact much better than we would have liked, and after 2 hours of driving around in circles, we began to wonder if we would ever make it. It got to the point of ridiculousness and then Pepe got his camera out and got everybody laughing with his report and his speaking "Italian".

Fortunately after 2 and a half hours of looking at the Italian countryside, we finally met Geppo who was waiting for us at a gas station. Apparently to get to this gas station the driver was supposed to turn the opposite direction as the road sign. I'm not sure where things went wrong but at least we made it to the soundcheck. As you can see in the video, the venue was beautiful and made up for all the extra driving.

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Perdidos en el campo italiano

The Venue

The stage is set under a roof in case of rain, but we had perfect weather. The swimming pool was very tempting but mostly the guys just wanted to get a drink and then get the soundcheck done so they could shower and eat dinner.

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Los Mayores haciendo la cola para una cerveza

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Los cantantes descansando con un bebido después del viaje

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Jaime tocando el bajo

As the guys got the instruments set up and went through the soundcheck. I did a short interview with concert organizer DJ Geppo of Click on the picture below to watch the interview. If you don't speak Spanish let me just give a few highlights. Geppo told us that Lecce is very heavily into salsa cubana. He said probably only 5-10% of the music/dancing in the area is Puerto Rican. He also said that for the Italians the song Recoge y vete was "love at first sight". He told me that the fans in the area knew the entire CD and expected them to sing loud enough to be heard in Rome.

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Haz clic para ver la entrevista con Geppo de

Geppo also said that at in an internet vote, Salsa Mayor had won an award for Best Timba Group 2006/2007 for the hits Recoge y vete and Esto está. They would present the award to Maykel this night, and it was to be a surprise for the group. He showed me the article about the concert in a local paper which included information about the award.

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The Concert

After the soundcheck we went to the hotel. The hotel was only for the purpose of showering and changing clothes as we would be leaving for Turin at 3:00 am. So after a shower and dinner we packed all the suitcases in the bus again and walked back over to the venue. As we approached I could hear Tirso's Timba Cubana playing and I knew this was going to be a good night.

As Geppo had expected there was a big crowd, although I never asked the exact number. Before the show the fans danced to the music of the DJ and I was pleased to see a little girl, who was probably only 10 years old, dancing some excellent casino. This is one of the nice things in Italy. You see children and teenagers at the concerts, and they really know how to dance! It also explains why so many Italians dance as well as the Cubans themselves.

Geppo was also right about the fans knowing the entire Salsa Mayor repertoire. They were a great audience and they let out quite a yell when they heard that they were the first people to see Salsa Mayor live in Italy. The playlist was pretty much the same as in the previous concerts. They opened with Esto está, then Quitándome lo malo and third came La masa. As in Luxembourg and Paris there were fans that already knew La masa although at this time the Live, Desde La Casa De la Música CD was still unreleased. They were still doing the reggaeton bit with Ricardito in the middle of the song at this time.

They followed with Recoge y vete and Ella dice. Una pila de italianas volunteered for the despelote contest and even the little girl got up on stage to shake her thang. Things moved along as at the other concerts. They did Que tengo, Brujería and Años. and then came the first surprise of the evening.

Arlenys Rodríguez arrived with a few of her musicians and I guess they requested Recoge y vete again because they did the song a second time. Partway through the song Arlenys' musicians started taking over some of the instruments: drums, congas, piano and 1 trumpet. Then Maykel introduced Arleyns who improvised a bit before launching into her coro "déjate de bla bla bla tú mejor te callas". I'm not sure where you can buy her CD, but click on the image below to see Arlenys perform with Los Mayores. Maykel directed the musicians so that they could seamlessly slip back into the Recoge y vete mambo before ending the song. It was very well done and completely unrehearsed.

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Arlenys canta su coro "déjate de bla bla bla tú mejor te callas"

After Arlenys came the second surprise of the evening, of course I have already spoiled the surprise for you. Disco Batá and presented Maykel with the award that Salsa Mayor had won in the internet vote. Click on the image below to watch the presentation of the award. If you don't speak Spanish I'll just say that Geppo presented the award saying that throughout Italy, when you play the hits Recoge y vete and Esto está the dance floor fills up.

Maykel thanked the DJs who play their songs, the dancers, who he said are the most important of all. He also thanked the band and promised to bring the dancers something even more powerful next year.

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Maykel recibe el premio por mejor grupo de timba 2006/2007

They followed the award presentation with a sample of what they will be bringing us on their next CD with Anda pégate. It went over well with the audience, as it had at all the other concerts as well. You'll see in a couple of days when I post the Official + Salsa Mayor 2007 Summer Tour Video Clip (yes this is a teaser so stay tuned).

The audience was not about to say goodbye to the band yet and made it every clear that they wanted an encore. In fact they were quite specific about which song they wanted to hear. So the band came back on stage and launched into the coro of Lo bello por dentro. You know it is just so nice when the audience really knows the band's repertoire and knows how to have a good time.

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La gente quiere Lo bello por dentro

Each audience is different. In Paris there was a lot of autographing of CDs. In Lecce there was literally a long line of people waiting to be photographed with Maykel and/or the singers. The band relaxed and mingled for a while before going back to the bus for the 3:00 am departure for Turin.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:31 AM