News Column

Afro-Cuban bands to create grooves at music festival

June 6, 2013

YellowBrix

June 06--WORTHINGTON -- Havana Hi Fi and Salsabrosa's Afro-Cuban music will spice things up at this weekend's Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. With driving rhythms and upbeat tempos, both bands promise to grab people's attention and get them itching to dance.

"We like to make it feel island-like -- like summer. Some of the music that makes you think summer and feel like summer is that tropical, Cuban music," said Hayley Moore, chairwoman of the festival's music committee. "When you're looking for a band, you want one that will engage the audience and really get their attention."

Havana Hi Fi, based in the Twin Cities, will perform at 8 p.m. Friday on the Sailboard Beach stage.

Havana Hi Fi plays Cubin son, a style of music that blends Spanish music with African rhythms and percussion instruments, according to band member Tom Peterson

"It's a pretty traditional Cubin son," Peterson said of Havana Hi Fi's music. "It's very upbeat and energetic dance music. It would be strange to play this style without having people get up and dance."

Peterson describes himself as "Minnesotan through and through," but said he always had a love for Cubin and Latin American music. When he traveled to Cuba for the first time in 2003, he bought his first tres, a traditional guitar-type instrument that holds an important place in the musical culture of Cuba.

"That's how the seed for the band was planted," Peterson said.

The seed may have been planted in 2003, but it wasn't until 2011 that Havana Hi Fi was formed.

"After I bought the tres in Cuba, it sat in the corner while I was busy with life. Eventually, I self-taught myself on YouTube," he said.

Havana Hi Fi is usually a six-piece band but will play with seven band members on Friday.

Leading the vocals will be Estibaliz "Esti" Price, who is a "force of nature," Peterson said. "She'll put everyone in a great mood."

Price started her singing career as a teenager touring in Mexico with the group Estibaliz and the Kings. She moved to Minneapolis in 2011, and when Peterson asked her if she would be interested in singing with Havana Hi Fi, she immediately agreed.

For their Worthington performance, Havana Hi Fi will have two guest precisionists, including the renowned Babatunde Lea.

"I've known about him because he's such a big deal. I reached out to him on Facebook to see if he would help us with the Worthington show, and he agreed," Peterson said. "He's amazing, and I'm really excited to have him with us."

Also based out of the Twin Cities, Salsabrosa will perform at 6 p.m. on Saturday on the Sailboard Beach stage.

Similar to Havana Hi Fi, Salsabrosa plays high-energy afro-cuban music.

"People love to dance to our music. We play mainly salsa. It's high energy with heavy percussion and beautiful vocal harmonies," said founder and manager Tim Owen.

Owen formed the group seven years ago after he learned to play the timbales -- single-headed drums with metal casings that were invented in Cuba.

"I was part of the salsa dance scene here, and about seven years ago I wanted to get involved in a different way so I started this group," he said.

Today, Owen stays involved with the band as its manager. The group plays more than 80 shows a year at colleges and cooperate events throughout the Midwest, booked through an agent, GL Berg Entertainment.

Through normally a five-piece band, Salsabrosa will have six musicians on stage on Saturday, including Price from Havana Hi Fi.

"Esti Price will be singing harmonies with us primarily. She's a fantastic singer," Owen said.

With unusual rhythms and catchy melodies, Owen called Salsabrosa's music mesmerizing.

"Sometimes Cuban music isn't a straight 1, 2, 3, 4 beat. It's not always an easy beat to follow, but that makes it magical. There are very intricate rhythm patterns, and mixing in the horns and electric guitar and the vocal rhythms make it a mesmerizing thing to listen to," Own said.

With a long and rich history, Owen believes the Afro-Cuban music thatSalsabrosa plays still benefits people today.

"These are the rhythms that came from West Africa, that slave owners on ships would demand slaves play. These rhythms would help the slaves stay spirited and alive. These are life-changing rhythms that make people spirited and hopeful. They help people forget whatever is stressing them out as they dive into the music and forget what ails them."

Salsabrosa plays regularly on Saturdays at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe in Burnsville, where they offer dance instruction prior to the show.

More information about Salsabrosa can be found at www.salsabrosa.com.

Both Peterson and Owen said they are looking forward to bringing their music to Worthington.

"I'm interested in bringing this kind of music to an audience who normally doesn't have an opportunity to hear it. It's infectious, and some of the greatest music on the planet is from Cuba," Peterson said. "People will get up and dance, and people will love it."

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

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(c)2013 The Daily Globe (Worthington, Minn.)

Visit The Daily Globe (Worthington, Minn.) at www.dglobe.com

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