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| Thursday, Mar 20, 2014
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Three-time Grammy nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform a joyous concert celebrating Cuba’s musical heritage on Friday, April 11, at 8 p.m. at Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center College of the Canyons (26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91355). Tickets are $35 to $45 and may be purchased at canyons.edu or by calling 661-362-5304.

Be warned: Their music is infectious, their exuberance contagious and their beat will hijack your body from the waist down.

 

tiempolibre

To the members of the three-time Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre, music isn’t just a way of life, it’s a way of experiencing living. They approach their concerts as Cuban music parties. Audience members may choose whether to be a guest who sits back and enjoys the sophisticated music performed by these conservatory-trained musicians or one who claps, dances and sings along to the band’s joyous sound.

The Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio when the members of Tiempo Libre were growing up in Cuba. But, like teenagers everywhere, that which was forbidden was what the members of Tiempo Libre most desired. The musicians fashioned antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil and clothes hangers and climbed up on their rooftops secretly at night to catch music from Miami airwaves. This music fueled their dreams of living in America and ultimately gave them the strength to leave it all behind – families, friends, a country, a life – to pursue those dreams.

Through Tiempo Libre’s latest timba album, My Secret Radio, the seven musicians express the thrill of their secret rooftop radio sessions as well as the difficulties they faced starting from scratch in America, a culture so foreign and different from Cuba.

Tiempo Libre has become known around the world for its joyous, sophisticated, dance-inducing concerts of a Cuban style of music called timba – a high-energy combination of Latin jazz and traditional style of Cuban music called “son.” There hasn’t been a concert yet where people haven’t danced in the aisles. Tiempo Libre’s goal is to serve as ambassadors to their Cuban musical heritage, while celebrating their new American experience. (They are based out of Miami now.)

Just as jazz has travelled from New Orleans to Chicago, New York and around the world, Tiempo Libre’s members see Cuban timba music as a living, breathing art form that continues to evolve over time. Tiempo Libre’s sound honors the group’s Cuban musical heritage, while incorporating their American experiences – funk, hip-hop, rap, jazz, ska and pop. The group compares timba music to a tomato. If you plant a tomato in Havana soil, it will taste differently than if you plant it in Miami soil or Los Angeles soil, but it will still be a tomato. Tiempo Libre’s members are pure timberos. They listen to timba, they play it, they dance it, they live it. And as Cubans now living in the U.S., they absorb the musical nutrients of this country and incorporate them into their sound.

Today, having reunited in Miami, having formed the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S., earned three Grammy nominations, performed on NPR, at The Hollywood Bowl, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as on TV’s The Tonight Show and Dancing with the Stars, Tiempo Libre’s musicians are truly living the American dream.

The group’s concert will feature music from its two Sony Masterworks releases, the Grammy-nominated Bach in Havana and the previously mentioned My Secret Radio. The group’s album Bach in Havana earned Tiempo Libre its third Grammy-nomination. The cd takes Bach as a starting point from which to explore a wide range of Cuban music forms and rhythms and features guest tracks with Yosvany Terry and Paquito D’Rivera. The album is a true reflection of the two worlds of Tiempo Libre’s Cuban musical upbringing. Tiempo Libre’s seven members led “double” lives studying classical music at Cuba’s premier Russian-style conservatories by day and by night meeting up to play the traditional music of Cuba. It was only natural that they would be interested in weaving their classical roots into a new musical tapestry.

In addition to recording the duet “Para Tí” with virtuoso violin player Joshua Bell (which is featured on Bell’s album, At Home With Friends), Tiempo Libre’s musical director Jorge Gomez’ unique Cuban cha-cha-cha version of “Christmas Auld Lang Syne” for Gloria Estefan and Joshua Bell was featured on Bell’s Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends and on a performance with Bell and Estefan on The Queen Latifah Show. Tiempo Libre recorded O’Reilly Street with leading flute player Sir James Galway, which includes an Afro-Cuban take on music from the jazz suites of Claude Bolling. They bring Cuban music to new audiences by performing with leading orchestras.

Ten years since their formation, there is not a moment the group takes for granted. Says the group’s pianist and musical director Jorge Gómez, “Every record we make, every concert we play seems like a gift. Each time we are about to walk on stage, I get a tingling sensation, that thrill that starts at the base of the spine and fills me with euphoria. It’s that same thrill I felt up on that roof under the twinkling Havana stars, listening to my secret radio.”

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