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Cuba based rap duo, Zona Franka, blends traditional rhythms with the grit and swagger of hip-hop and rap vocal phrasings. Their clever shout choruses create instant tropical dance classics using their unique self-titled "changui con flow" style.

Concert Report - Copenhagen - June 26, 2004

"...Que Pupy tiene candela"

by Michelle White

Finally, after 3 years of waiting, European timba fans are experiencing Pupy y Los Que Son Son live for the first time, and it is an awesome experience. The band must have been using these three years well, because they have a perfectly balanced sound, a rhythm section that won't let you rest and metales to die for. But don't just take my word for it. Keep reading to see what some other fans around Europe have been saying:

I saw Pupy y los que Son Son a few days ago at the "LatinoAmericando" Festival in Milan. Their performance was genuine, powerful, exciting. The songs were perfectly executed, with a closeness in the orchestra never seen before. They happened to reduce some despelote phases that usually occur on stage, strictly developing the improvisations in favour of true MUSICAL involvement of the audience, carried on with the pure force of the instrumental and vocal ensemble but always respecting the balanced texture of Pupy's gorgeous inventions. A lot of bomba, pedal, urging rhythms, pressing dynamics... for what resulted to be, in the end, a set of rare splendour. The brass section sounded more perfect live than many other bands do on records, and Osiris is so great on keyboards that I think the Trabuco (that I saw yesterday in Verona) is going to miss him more and more. Ferrucio - Italy

The concert began with the voice of Armando "Mandy" Cantero Abreu "¡Toda mi gente preparada! ¡Si tú no bailes con esto, tú no bailes con nada!" as the singers filtered onto the stage the rhythm section started and with the first mambo I knew this was going to be something exceptional. 

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This band is a powerhouse that builds up an overwhelming wave of sound and sweeps the audience along. The percussion section consists of Julio Noroña Jr on güiro, René Suárez Zapata on timbales, Roelvis "Bombón" Reyes on drums, Jorge "El Toro" Castillo on congas with violinist Gerardo Miró on electropads when he's not playing his violin.  And then there is the rest of the rhythm section: Reinier Elizarde on baby-bass, Osiris Martínez on synth and El Maestro himself, César "Pupy" Pedroso on piano. 

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Julio, René, Bombón y El Toro - photo courtesy of Eli Silvrants

Que Cosas Tiene La Vida was the perfect song to start the concert, with Mandy's challenge to the audience. As with the order of songs on the CD Que Cosas Tiene La Vida, the second song was El Vecino Se Mudó sung by José "Pepito" Gómez. Pepito has a powerful, clear voice that is immediately recognizable and gives the songs an added intensity. If there were people in the audience who had never seen a timba band before, they were by now experiencing the shock that people go through with their first timba experience. 

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This was followed by Mandy singing El Pregonero. There was a lot of audience participation, including "a dance part and a vocal part", as Mandy put it. And then it was time for the first estreno! It is called Dicen Que Dicen and was sung by Pepe. There is no doubt that the new CD is going to be a classic. All the songs I've heard from it are genuine hardcore timba, with lyrics that are as enjoyable as the music. ¡Cubano de verdad!

The departure of Tirso Duarte has not stopped the band from performing two of my favorite songs: La Bomba Soy Yo and El Gato Amaga y No Araña. The first is sung by Mandy. I have to admit that, as much as I like Tirso, when I first heard it on Que Cosas Tiene La Vida it was hard for me to accept a new version having already heard Mayito's. But the tempo is a little faster in Pupy's, which makes it more fun to dance to, and the guías are great. Once I got over the shock of  hearing a new singer, I became quite fond of Tirso's version as well. Now it was time for a third singer to perform it! 

I really liked Mandy's singing. At first he guías were more or less the same as when Tirso sang but Mandy has added some twists of his own and uses his own phrasing, and I  didn't miss either of the previous versions when he sang.

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Pupy's solo

And finally we got to hear Maestro Pupy Pedroso do a solo. The tumbaos are one of my favorite aspects of timba, and Pupy is one of the pianists who defined piano playing in contemporary Cuban music, not to mention winner of's Best Timba Pianist award. So this was indeed a treat. The solo started out like it does on the CD, but as he went on he began improvising.  Needless to say I enjoyed every minute and am extremely envious of everyone who gets to take part in the workshop he will be holding on July 4th in Nijmegen, Holland.

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Chocolate's solo

They followed directly with El Gato Amaga y No Araña sung by the orchestra's new singer Alexander Lara. Tirso is a tough act to follow, but Alexander has a nice and well trained voice. It is deeper than Tirso's which immediately makes the song feel a little different. With his great stage presence and his talent for establishing contact with the audience he made the song his own.

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Alexander - El Gato Amaga y No Araña

When talking to the audience Alexander said "¡No falta nadie!", everyone is quoting Manolito these days, and then "Para la gente que faltaron, lo que se perdieron" and I have to agree with him. The song also featured a solo by Leonardo Teruel.

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"Viene Leo!"

I saw Pupy in concert in Zurich about 10 days ago. Great concert-agree, it was more performance than stage show. I was especially impressed with the horn section as well. Not that many new songs, though they did an extra-long version of "dicen que dicen" and also I think "mamita portate bien" which the band had stopped playing but had to start again because we wouldn't stop singing coros... Alex - Switzerland

When people say the show is more music than stage show and that they skipped the usual despelote contest, this doesn't mean that there is no dancing. The singers are dancing all the time, but there are not a lot of choreographed steps. Their dancing has a very strong rumba flavor, which I like. 

And then I just have to mention Osiris. Osiris Martínez is one of the top synth players in timba today as evidenced by his placing 4th in the awards. But he also sings coro and dances quite a bit while he's playing. And towards the end of the encore he came forward and danced  a bit of tembleque, which was greatly appreciated by the ladies in the audience.

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Osiris dando cintura

Everyone is raving about the metales and with good reason. They are tight. For lack of a better metaphor I will borrow one from a friend: they are as tight as a tight thing that's really tight. Throughout the concert they sounded fantastic. The trombones and trumpets are perfectly balanced. When they weren't playing they were dancing; they can't stand still. These guys are full of energy and you can hear it in the mambos. Leo did 2 solos during the course of the evening and Chocolate did one as well.

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Sergio Luna y Neury Lorenzo

The second estreno was also sung by Pepito and is about someone who likes to drink but doesn't pay: "bebes y bebes y no me pagas lo que me debes". The guys pointed out a band member who is guilty of this type of behavior, but out of discretion, I won't name him here. The lyrics were a lot of fun, and musically it also qualifies as hardcore timba. Whenever the new CD arrives, it will be one of the bestsellers of 2004.

This was followed by Mamita Portate Bien sung by Mandy and with another solo by Leo as well as a flute solo by Charlie, a friend of the band. Pepe sang Seis Semanas which also featured guest singer Jonny Luis. And Mandy rounded off the evening with the 'new' song that has been floating around Europe for almost a year now under the name De Timba a Pogoloti but has also been called El Secreto. By whatever name, it sounds as good and is a favorite of almost every timbero I know.

Since the band had to leave for Germany right away we got no encore. I rushed backstage after the show so I wouldn't miss the chance to give Pupy his award. Fortunately I was not too late, and now Pupy has a new cup to enjoy his café cubano and to remind him of his ranking as top timba pianist.

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Gerardo, Jonny Luis, Pupy con su premio, Pepito y Osiris

When it comes to Pupy himself, he was wonderful. Most of all, he seemed to enjoy the band's performance and not least, the audience. He had an almost magical way of interacting with us, not allowing me to stop dancing for even five seconds, and I could read when a change was coming by his facial expression, and his way of smiling to me or someone else just before changing his tumbao, and the band was not late on following his directions.

Well, I think you have to be there to understand fully! All I can say is: GO SEE HIM. And for you who already missed him: I feel sorry for you, and you should feel jealous. Tina - Sweden

From La Bomba Soy Yo:
Coro: Ay, ay, ay que Pupy tiene candela
Mandy: Eso lo sabe la Habana entera

Michelle: Y ahora lo sabe europa entera también. 

And I think that about says it all. So to make sure you are not one of the unfortunates who misses this historic tour, check the remaining dates on Pupy's tour page and book a trip to the city nearest you!

Monday, 19 March 2018, 08:15 AM