On April 10, instead of attending one of the many events happening that night in Rochester, I decided to travel to Toronto, Canada, and catch one of the hottest salsa band that has come out of Cuba, David Calzado & Su Charanga Habanera. I headed down to the Sound Academy, a huge club by the lakefront in downtown Toronto, at around 9:30 and it was already full of people dancing around the huge wooden floor. On the floor people were dancing as couples or doing salsa de casino or just standing around with refreshments on hand waiting for the band to come out. (For those who don’t know, salsa de casino or rueda is similar to square dancing with the call to the dancers but with Cuban phrases and movements.)
As I scoped the venue, the majority of the crowd at Sound Academy were Cuban ladies who either were single or left their significant others at home to come and enjoy a ladies’ night with their lady friends, hoping to be close to the stage and at least touch one of the vocalists from Charanga. DJ music under the supervision of DJ Alberth Moreno of Toronto and "Mr Timba" himself, Toronto’s DJ Billy Bryans, played Cuban salsa and Cuban regeaton throughout the first couple of hours of the show.
At roughly 11:45 p.m., directly from Cuba and from an electrifying performance in Montreal the night before, one of Cuba’s hottest salsa bands for many years, David Calzado & Su Charanga Habanera, came on stage! The show originally was supposed to include one of Cuba’s hottest regeaton artists, El Chacal, but due to visa problems he was not able to leave the island and perform with La Charanga. As the band members introduced themselves, the crowd began to go wild, mostly the ladies, and they began their first hour-and-a-half set with "Partiendo La Habana" and continued to navigate through their vast repertoire of hits from previous productions and also songs from their current release, "No Mires La Caratula." Dantes, Lachy, Junior, Heikel, Aned and leader David Calzado kept the suffocating crowd in a state of ecstasy with their hip-grinding, chest-pumping dance routines. To close their first set they sang their mega hit "Gozando En La Habana" from their latest production, and the crowd began to sing along and chant the chorus, "Tu Llorando en Miami Y Yo Gozando en La Habana."
A dance contest served as an intermission, then the band returned, this time more relaxed. Already, Calzado had the audience in the palm of his hand. All he had to do was to continue with great music. In the second set, Calzado invited the ladies to dance on stage to prove as he said, "Cuando salen de Cuba se le olvida la practica." As many as eight women tried to prove him wrong, but to no avail. The band continued playing till 2 a.m.
The Charanga played to an audience of 1,300 people. A small group from Rochester and Syracuse were there to experience the night of music. Here’s what they had to say:
Darile Correa, a Cuban living in Rochester, said, "I felt like I was in Cuba con tantos Cubanos and la charanga habanera!" Liz Garcia, a Puerto Rican also living in Rochester, commented, "Awesome concert with such a GREAT diverse crowd. … Awesome music to dance to with GREAT dancers from all over."
Rosabel Antonetti from Rochester said, "So many musicians on one stage … and the attractive front line, who can actually sing — no complaints here!"
All in all, La Charanga was able to fulfill many expectations with a night of great music, and a unique experience!
Rivera is CEO of Latin Roc Entertainment (www.latinroc.com) and host of Esencia Latina on Jazz90.1 FM/WGMC-FM radio from 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and on www.jazz901.org. Contact him at email@example.com.