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[whitespace] Timba Titans

Bamboleo leads the next generation of great Cuban players

By David Espinoza

THE NEXT GENERATION of Cuban musicians has arrived. True, the 14 musicians who make up Bamboleo have been getting hips to wiggle and shake since 1995, but it is the band's third effort, Ya No Hace Falta, that has secured Bamboleo's status as one of the spiciest outfits to come from the island in a while. Said to be leaders in the emerging genre of timba--a modernized, funkified take on traditional Cuban music--Bamboleo is clearly the result of a world in which entire musical canons regularly collapse and anything is possible. Bamboleo throws down irresistible Latin jazz fusions with dashes of American soul (if one listens closely).

Under the direction of pianist Lazaro Valdez, Bamboleo boasts four remarkable singers, giving the band a strong base from which to pump its sounds. There's no denying the superior musicianship of the players either, from the dazzling clicks and pops provided by percussionists Dunesky Barreto Pozo and Ulises Texidor Pascual to the bright horn blasts of trumpeteers Anselmo Carmelo Torres and Frank Cintra Cruz.

Astute enough to realize that even the most energetic dancers need a rest, the album offers just the right number of mellow moments placed among the upbeat tunes. The instrumental "Candil de Nieve" begins with a tribal beat before working into a silky piano lead and ending in a rapid horn battle. Following the tune is "El Pillo" (The Flirt), a name that is not such a bad thing--"The flirt, they call me ... because I'm blessed with a charm that doesn't compare to any other." Other highlights off the album include the dueling female vs. male vocals on "Lo Mio."

Unlike the older generation of Cuban musicians best exemplified in Buena Vista Social Club, Bomboleo's players are much less gritty in sound though by no means any less authentic. The big difference is Bomboleo's incorporation of electrified instruments (especially synthesizer, which takes the place of the Cuban lute) and standup bass. Now imagine just how amazing a live show would be if the musicians from Buena Vista Social Club and Bomboleo got together.

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From the January 20-26, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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