SE LLAMA SABROSO (They Call it Tasty) by Zona Franka (a zona franca is a duty-free port) is an exciting introduction of a style called "Changüí con flow", a fusion of traditional rural changüí with rap and other urban Cuban music. As the name of the group implies, various musical styles from around the Americas are also featured. The songs are Cuban classics re-imagined in fresh, clever and innovative new arrangements that far differ from the original versions.
This is the debut solo album of Cuban cuatro master Kiki Valera, a member of the Familia Valera Miranda, a century-old group and one of the key purveyors of the Son Cubano. While completely dedicated to the performance of traditional Cuban music, Valera was exposed to jazz masters through cassette tapes while in school and those inspirations elevate the quality of his cuatro solos in subtle and wonderful ways. Joined here by childhood friend, renowned vocalist Coco Freeman, Valera and his exciting ensemble pair 12 original songs with beautiful instrumental work in ways that will make you dance, laugh, and possibly shed a tear.
Beyond Salsa Piano is a history and anthology of the role of the piano in the Cuban rhythm section – from its first appearance to the present. In a broader sense, it’s a study of the tumbao – the art of creating music from layers of repeating rhythmic and melodic phrases. Whether these syncopated figures are called tumbaos, guajeos, montunos, riffs or vamps, this Afro-Cuban concept lies at the heart of nearly every popular music genre from salsa to rock , funk, R&B, hiphop and jazz.

While presented as a set of method books, the series doubles as a history course and record collecting guide for listeners, dancers, and players of instruments other than the piano.

Perhaps the most important goal of the series is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how tumbaos are constructed, their central role in the texture of Latin music of all eras, and the endless possibilities they provide for creative composing and arranging.

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DJ Saoco - De La Habana a Matanzas ** L.A. Street Report **

November 16, 2006

By Katherine Bonalos

Music is made to be heard. So one could say that DJs are to recording artists what people are to falling forest trees? They let the world know about the other's existence. Even in the digital age, DJs remain a musical mainstay, for they are the true on-the-ground music promoters, the grassroots broadcasting arm for recording artists.

DJ Saoco - De La Habana a Matanzas

by Kathy Bonalos - Los Angeles LPM Correspondent

As an art form, few have perfected the craft like DJ Saoco, whose name is synonymous with Cuban music in the Latin music scene here in Los Angeles. Over the course of nearly a decade, Saoco has emerged as the premiere and highly regarded Cuban music DJ in all of Southern California.

Saoco is easily set apart from most local Latin music DJs. First, he continues to be an innovator and Cuban music pioneer in a scene largely dominated by old school and Nuyorican salsa. Saoco, who was born in Matanzas, Cuba and embraces all styles of Latin music, began DJing in Los Angeles in the late 90s, at a time when no one was playing Cuban music, let alone a new genre of music that hit the streets in Cuba called timba (a funky fusion of all things good).

Thanks to local connections, including some help along the way from Latin music promoters Albert Torres and Tony Pana, as well as Jimmy Maslon from Ahí -Namá music label and the owners of Zabumba restaurant, Saoco has made a name for himself and continues to do what he does best. And whenever Cuban bands are in town (like Tiempo Libre, Maraca and Havana NRG), it's usually Saoco matching and sustaining the energy of the live entertainment with more mú sica Cubana in between sets.

Saoco stays fresh by staying current, always with his ear to the ground for new and emerging music and artists. As a music lover and avid music collector, his comprehensive music collection (which isn't limited to Cuban music) spans decades and is arguably a Latin music historical archive. It contains everything from classic Cuban danzó n to the Fania classics to all the latest timba releases. For many, it is because of Saoco that we first heard (and subsequently bought) the latest cds from Charanga Forever, Maikel Blanco y su Salsamayor, and Michel Maza (the latter of which remains his current favorite), just to name a recent few., a website devoted to Cuban cultural arts in Southern California, regularly features Saoco's monthly musical picks (see

Not only does Saoco have a great ear, he also has a great "eye" for the music. It's his unique specialty. Saoco doesn't just show up to a gig and blindly dish out salsa standards like Llorará s or Rebellion, ignorant of his dancing crowd. Rather, Saoco is playfully watchful and attentive to the dancers, each time drawing them into his musical experience like a clever snake charmer. Yes, Saoco with his magical flute, playing just the right medley of tunes to enchant and mesmerize.

And for those who know Saoco well, they are all too familiar with his bag of musical tricks. For example, it's not uncommon for Saoco to acknowledge your arrival into a club by playing your favorite song. It's his way of saying hello. Similarly, he also doesn't let you say goodbye too fast. He'll deliberately keep you hooked by playing another one of your favorites. Next thing you know, it's closing time.

It's precisely that connection between DJ and dancer that keeps Saoco's popularity growing among Cuban music fanatics and soon-to-be Cuban music fanatics. In late October, DJ Saoco celebrated eight years of DJing at Zabumba, a local Brazilian restaurant in West Los Angeles that attracts Cuban music lovers from all over, including casineros from the San Francisco Bay Area and as far as Arizona. It's not unusual for music lovers to travel to see a band perform -but to travel to hear a DJ? Guess that shows how powerful music is (or how crazy music lovers are), and how beloved DJ Saoco is by many.

For Saoco, the ultimate payoff is to see people happy and on the dance floor. It's what he thrives on and what energizes him, considering he keeps quite a rigorous conventional work schedule while also DJing five nights a week (Sundays and Thursdays at Zabumba, Tuesdays at King King in Hollywood, and Fridays and Saturdays at The Granada).

When asked, local dancers and musicians often describe Saoco as "fun-loving, humble, genuine, thoughtful, kind, wonderful" and "like family". But shy and musically timid he is not. It's true that when you love something, you're willing to take risks, and happily so. Saoco is always boldly trying new things, stimulating and challenging dancers by introducing new tunes. He has withstood the criticism (and myth) that local dancers prefer typical salsa and find it hard to dance to Cuban music. Saoco disproves this every Friday night at The Granada, where beginner salseros practice their moves to Saoco's perfect blend of salsa con timba.

Particularly in Los Angeles, where salsa bands feel pressured to play the same covers (often at the expense of originality and creativity), Saoco in his own way pushes the local Latin music scene to new levels by demonstrating that it's possible to introduce new and original material and create new connections between dancers and the music. A promising sign (and word of encouragement) for many musicians that say they would like to play original compositions.

They say that music is a universal language, and for many, the language of love. So it is out of much love and respect that the local Cuban music community pays tribute to Saoco. Saoco never aspires to be in the spotlight, but prefers to communicate and make friendships through music. Like myspace, Saoco loves having thousands and thousands of friends. So be a part of his network and catch him at one of his regular spots (you have five chances during the week). It's easy to get hooked, for music is one of life's greatest addictions.

11.16.06 - Katherine Bonalos - Music Reporter

copyright 2006 Latin Pulse Music - All rights Reserved

  • User_testimonials 
  • There is a history of musical innovations being forged on the island of Cuba before finally breaking out into the wider world and making their mark on music at large. Books like those by Rebeca Mauleón have enabled more of us to participate in that process. Now, ten years after Rebeca’s last book, Kevin Moore has produced a unique and outstanding set of works which make the last twenty years of Cuban music accessible to anyone who cares to learn to play it. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the world is now ready for an injection of Cuban timba.
    - Keith Johnson, England