May 2008

Pupy y los que son son
presented by Okakan Productions and La rumba event
in association with Misterbryans.com
May 24, 2008 Opera House Toronto
El Buenagente
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
“Dicen que dicen”, “El vecino se mudo”, “El Buenagente”, the favourites just kept coming. Taking only a brief intermission, Cuban supergroup César “Pupy” Pedroso y los que son son played, sang and danced their way through close to three hours. Having left Los Van Van years ago, Pupy has long since established himself as an important composer/bandleader/musician in the world of timba. It is not only the quality of the musicians and the strength of the arrangements that set groups like this apart but the spirit of passion, sharing and generosity they exhibit in performances such as this one in Toronto. Many in the audience were ardent fans and knew the words to the songs. Further incited by the singers, the crowd joined in the celebratory spirit, singing and dancing.

Although it would be a bizarre thing to see a band like this singing and playing near-motionless on stage — would it be possible? — the other extreme is not what Pupy wants in his show. With Pupy y los que son son, although the band certainly pulsed with the rhythms they were producing, the music did not take a back seat to gyrating hips and acrobatics. In fact, near the end of the show, it was members of the horn line who came out front and centre to take some well-deserved limelight.

The Opera House with its ornate trim and high ceiling has been renovated to the point where it hints at a glorious past. Large white flower arrangements and candles enhanced the atmosphere on this occasion. It turned out to be a perfect venue for Pupy y los que son son, able to evoke a feel of Havana. Prefacing the concert, there were three professional dance shows. This was a wonderfully integrated and complete evening of art and entertainment.

The New York-based “dancer Pupy”, Felix 'Pupy' Insua, moved throughout the night ever so Afro-Cubanly. From the stage, playing conga, he conducted the audience in a rhythmic drumming-clapping sequence that had everyone warmed up and ready for the band. Later on, he could be seen out on the floor dancing with the rest of the crowd. Near the end of the show, Insua danced on stage with Maribel Vasquez from Energetic Soul during a dazzling flight of virtuosic piano from Pupy Pedroso. The dancing, the piano, a knocked-over microphone, the unstoppable motion, it was a highlight of the evening.

César 'Pupy' Pedroso

Felix 'Pupy' Insua & Maribel Vasquez
The Mambo Dream Team (Mississauga, Ontario) tended more to the Afro-Cuban-Vegas side of things with feathers and headgear but were certainly on the money in terms of execution and ability. The show put on by Duane Wrenn and Maribel Vasquez from Energetic Soul (Clawson, Michigan) was an excellent surprise, congruent with the music that we had come to hear. It opened with Duane Wrenn doing an orisha-type dance to the sound of the bata drums and chanting. With the arrival on stage of Maribel Vasquez, it moved into a playfully flirtatious guaguanco and exploded into very fast rumba/salsa/timba. Like Pedroso’s music, the show remained earthy and tied to tradition but drew on the roots to create something fresh, new and exciting.

From the start of the show, dispatched by solo drum kit, the band rapidly reached full intensity. It was timba at its best, firm in its AfroCuban roots and rich with a variety of son, rumba, salsa and jazz. Complex rhythms, precision horns, sections of call and response, improvisation both vocal and instrumental, this band has it all. 'Mandy' and 'Pepito' traded the role of lead vocalist, demonstrating a seemingly natural ease with melody, rhythm and lyric. Lilibert, the sole female in the band, filled out the backup vocals. Two trombones, two trumpets, electric piano, electric keyboard, drum kit, timbales, guiro/small percussion, bass and congas made up the instrumental component along with a guest flautist from Miami, Ernesto Fernandez. Pupy y los que son son produce music that has to be experienced, to be physically felt to fully appreciate. It is music that will transport you.

The Canadian tour was timed to promote Pupy y los que son son’s new album, but unfortunately, the release has been delayed by a few months so there were no CDs being sold on the night of the show. For now, the CD and the upcoming DVD on “Pupy” César Pedroso’s career remain something to look forward to. The concert will remain in the spirits of the attendees as a night to remember.

Pupy y los que son son
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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