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by Maya M

This year San Francisco Jazz Festival scaled down its Latin program.  Even scheduled Issac Delgado show was cancelled. Instead we heard  once more, after a 2 year absence, El Medico de la Salsa who now lives in Miami.

Most Bay Area Cuban music fans were in attendance, but no hard core Salseros.  Why? This band, like so many other visiting  Cuban bands such as Bamboleo, Los Van Van and others, do not play salsa per se. They play another Cuban invention - Timba, a fusion of different  music styles, from rock to  rap.  Don't agree? No sweat.  I don't pretend to be a scholar of Cuban music.  This is a review of an average listener, a dilettante who knows a thing or two about music.  And that's how it sounds to me.

These bands use full drum sets and a strong rock beat begins many songs.  Eventually you hear added percussions which add Latin flavor.  One distinguishing feature of this style - pervasive repetitive beats and week melodies.  With this music you cannot help but fall into a Cuban style salsa dancing.  But if you're used to more sophisticated tunes, these songs will pretty soon appear monotonous.  Often it's just rap and no melody at all.

However, Cuban musicians are invariably superb in all the visiting bands.  Russian-style free music training pays off (at least in this case).  In one jazzy instrumental piece  El Medico's band demonstrated an inventive arrangement and impeccable rendition with interesting solo improvisations.

Like flowers growing amid rocks, so many innovations came from people surviving in oppressive regimes.  In a country where access to "ready-to-consume" mass culture is limited, this vivacious nation invents its own entertainment (think of rueda) which wins fans all over the world.



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