Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 250: My name is Lola. But only in June.

I walked by a dance studio on my way home tonight and heard a familiar song.
The sexy salsa standard: Ave Maria Lola.
I was instantly overcome with a desire to be dancing onstage next to my familiar Cuban horn section.
For over ten years I toured around the city (and oftentimes beyond) with a Latino band.
The troupe (including dancers) consisted of Cubans, Venezuelans, Dominicans, and El Salvadorians.
Naturally gifted, serious musicians.
People who became like family to me.
I learned their different Spanish dialects pretty quick to stay part of the fast conversations.
And I inherited their deep love for this seductive, percussive music that contagiously makes you smile in spite of yourself.
One night during a running festival gig at the Casino we congregated to our little loge/dressing room.
All the musicians brought homemade specialties to eat. Lots of meat and rice!
Somehow someone always brought a bottle of Añejo 7 Años Habana Club rum.
And someone else always brought the glasses.
Without any prior coordination of those two details. It always boggled my mind.
We had a shot each, ate and laughed as we exchanged funny stories.
Stories are funnier in Spanish, I think.
Other Cuban bands playing the festival stopped by for a drink (rum is gossip that spreads quick).
I remember there was an upright black piano in the room, and someone started to play a Cuban mambo riff.
Pretty soon, the bongo player was tapping the desk, playing a salsa beat.
A Cuban singer broke out into song.
And they were jamming. Just like that.
Completely making up a song that if recorded, would sell successfully.
Pure, authentic sounds.  Improvised lyrics, half spoken half sung.
Once everyone got the melody we sang 'coro' (repetitive backup vocals in harmony with the beat).
It was one of the most memorable and magical experiences I’ve ever had.
Latin people are so rich with culture. So blessed with talent.
They escape hard times, strict government and poverty through music wherever they find themselves.
And when they immigrate to Canada, it becomes their bread and butter.
They will work any club gig they can, just to provide for their big families.
But it never looks like work.
They do it with such pride and soul that you can’t help but forever have a place for it in your heart, too. 

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