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Tiempo Libre

UT San Diego

Best bet: Tiempo Libre, ambassadors of Cuban music

UT San Diego

Thursday, March 5, 2009

by Pablo Jaime Sainz

Tiempo Libre has a very clear mission: To take Cuban culture and music, especially timba, across the United States.

“We want people in this country to know, to understand, and to appreciate Cuba's roots,” said Jorge Gómez, pianist and musical director of Tiempo Libre, playing Saturday in San Diego. “This is a big world, not everything is the United States.”

Founded in Miami in 2001, the two-time Grammy-nominated band is one of the most popular timba ensembles today.

For those not familiar with Caribbean rhythms, Tiempo Libre's music might sound like traditional salsa, but the aggressive combo of the piano, the bass and the claves, reveal it's timba.

Timba is a relative of salsa, although timba's roots go back to the Cuban son, adding several elements from African-American jazz.

“It doesn't bother me that they consider us salseros, but I do like to explain to people the differences between the two genres,” Gómez said via telephone from Miami, where band members live.

Gómez arrived in the United States in 2000, after graduating from the Escuela Nacional de Arte, one of Cuba's most prestigious conservatories.

As proof that timba is a dynamic rhythm that borrows from other styles, Tiempo Libre will release its third album (the first one under the Sony label), “Bach in Havana,” a fusion of the German composer's classical music with Afro-Cuban sounds.

But being an ambassador of Cuban music comes with a cost: In terms of sales, timba continues to be an underdog in Caribbean music.

“It's been very difficult,” said Gómez, laughing. “If it was about making money, we would be playing reggaetón.”

The 37-year-old musician offers a crash-course on how to enjoy a Tiempo Libre timba concert: “The public gets carried away by the music. They scream, dance and get turned on. That's the essence of timba.”

read the full article: UT San Diego