Normally, I’d say Quimbombó tastes great but in this particular case, I say Quimbombó sounds wonderful. The former Quimbombó is a Latino gumbo, the latter a Cuban musical group specializing in Son Cubano. This group performed at the BAMCafé in my borough of Brooklyn to celebrate the citywide ¡Si Cuba! Festival.
The inside of BAMCafé is a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. Every square inch of the already cozy space was occupied by a body. The air is dense as dozens of people patiently draw their breaths in anticipation for the performance. Downstairs the situation was even worse. Scores of poor, unfortunate souls waited there as if trapped in purgatory, unable to ascend the café’s escalator into its crowded heaven.
Though I’ve never had the pleasure of listening to this group perform before, when they hit the stage I was greeted by very familiar sounds. Son Cubano is a relative to Salsa, a musical style I’m quite familiar with. When they played, percussion of African origins filled the air. It resonated throughout the walls and into the body like a stylishly rhythmic heartbeat. This clearly African beat melds with the Spanish guitar and lyrics reflecting a society established by Spaniards centuries ago; a meeting of two very different cultures that invigorates. You needn’t take my word for it; one glance at the audience would tell you all you need to know. Excitement and passion replaces the discomfort. Hips undulate rhythmically, feet shift side to side despite the lack of space and even those who don’t know how to move like a Latino, move their bodies to the beat anyway. Yes, this is Son Cubano. All it needed was some more brass and it would be just like the very same music I grew up listening to. Of course, this doesn’t surprise me, both Cubans and Puerto Ricans are the result of the melding of Spaniard, Taíno and African peoples.
The excitement and desperation to see this band perform is well deserved.