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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.

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viernes, 18 junio 2010, 08:41 am

Last Chance to See Pupy in California

photos by Tom Ehrlich

It gets hotter every night. I've seen every Bay Area show and will definitely be at Yoshi's Oakland for the grand climax tonight. Los Que Son Son has always had one of the most torrid grooves of any timba band but their new style is a quantum leap forward, featuring the pedales and bombas of bassist Daymar Calvario ("the cavalry is coming!"), Miguelito Escuriola, Duniesky Barreto and founding member Bombón Reyes, who of course also played in the legendary 2000 Issac band.

When the bass starts to pedal, slide or thump, the energy level simply goes through the roof and it happens repeatedly on every song. In my geeky opinion, this is the factor that was missing in both Pupy and Van Van - they made up for it with a relentless basic groove and masterpiece songs, but adding the "gear" factor is the pièce de resistance.

Percussion solos are a regular part of the show and Pupy's solo on La bomba soy yo  has brought the house down nightly. There was even a baby bass solo one night in SF. Many Bay stars have sat in, highlighted by Fito Reinoso, Rebeca Mauleón, John Santos and Carol Steele. Members of the Terry family are supposedly still in town and we're hoping for a last-minute guest appearance from the world's greatest chékere player.

See you tonight! Next tour stops are Washington DC and Boston. The band returns to Havana on July 2.

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lunes, 14 junio 2010, 05:56 pm

Pupy.....So HOT!

Mike's WiFi works at Yoshi's - currently halfway through La bomba soy yo. Blazing hot. Rebeca Mauleón sat in during the first set and tore it up. Percussionists and bassist soloing. Life is good!

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domingo, 13 junio 2010, 09:32 pm

Pupy Tonight!

... and all this week at Yoshi's SF and Yoshi's Oakland.

photos by Tom Ehrlich


Saturday's Cócomo show was sublime. I could watch this rhythm section night after night -- in fact, that's exactly what I intend to do and six nights won't be nearly enough to satisfy me. Their approach, originally architected by Changuito himself, is unlike any other timba band. Along with güirero Julito Noroña (the son of Van Van founder Julio Noroña) the timbalero, Miguelito Escuriola holds down the fort by covering both bell parts, as Samuell or Riverón would do, while also working in the jamblock, freeing the magnificent drummer/arranger Bombón Reyes to orchestrate the arrangement with his inimitable left-handed combination of kick, snare, hihat and toms. Bay Area fans will remember conguero Duniesky Barreto from Bamboleo's many tours in the late 90s. Pupy uses a lot more gears than he used to, giving Duniesky a lot of space to shine. This band's groove grabs ahold of you and won't let go, and Pupy's songs are all timeless classics, from 1970s Van Van masterpieces to fresh-out-of-the-oven estrenos from the upcoming album.

The concert kept building and building to an extraordinary climax on a new arrangement of Pupy's Van Van classic, Ni bombones ni caramelos. Bay Area sonero Fito Reinoso sat in and delivered one of the most inspired vocal performances I've ever heard. Fito can always be counted on to rise to the occasion with his Cándido Fabré-inspired improvisations, but this time he really outdid himself. Seconds after he took the mike, the energy level, already high, went off the scale. Pupy himself was grinning from ear to ear and shaking his head. The standard Cándido approach is to find a catchy melodic phrase and repeat it with minor variations, improvising words to fit the occasion, but Fito transcended this completely, fluidly responding to the band's every accent and changing rhythm and melody as well as words in myriad brilliant and completely spontaneous ways. When the rhythm section locked into an extended bomba behind him the groove was almost unbearable. Next, they seamlessly broke way down to a short 3-part coro with minimal accompaniment and Fito slid right into it, keeping the same rhythmic intensity at a fraction of the volume.

It's been a long, painful decade of musical drought, but the floodgates have opened and it's catch-up time for the city by the bay. Wherever you're reading this from, catch a boat, plane or train and get yourself out here.

NY Times Review   --  Central Park Video Clip

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domingo, 06 junio 2010, 04:00 pm

Llegó Yemayá

It's time for our annual month of Gabriel-envy. A few hours after touching down at José Martí International Airport, the intrepid timbera blogger stumbled into a Havana d'Primera concert without even trying ... sigh ...

For La Unteresita's exploits in greater detail, check Yemayá's Verse daily for the next month or so - it's the next best thing to being there.

Actually -- and I have to pinch myself as I type this -- this time,  the next best thing to being there just might be ... gasp ... being in San Francisco! We Have:

June 12 - Los Terry at Yerba Buena (free!) 
June 12 - Silvio Rodríguez at the Paramount in Oakland
June 12 - Pupy y Los Que Son Son at Cócomo in SF

(and yes ... Tom Ehrlich plans to be at all 3 ... I'm skipping "Cuba's Bob Dylan" (don't worry - I'll listen to Blonde on Blonde to console myself).

June 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 - Pupy y Los Que Son Son at each Yoshi's venue.

July 9, 10, 11 - Elito Revé, por fin!

And last but not least, in book news, we're planning another series - "Inside Cuban Percussion" - with the first featured artist being none other than Calixto Oviedo. Stay tuned.

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