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Tiempo Libre

Daily Local News

Tiempo Libre brings Cuba to Longwood Gardens

Daily Local News

Saturday, July 9, 2011

by Denny Dyroff

When Tiempo Libre performs tonight at Longwood Gardens, the band will be playing a lot of music from its new album "My Secret Radio" (Sony Masterworks). The album's title is a reflection of life in Cuba for music fans.

The Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio when the band's members were growing up in Cuba. Cuban teenagers responded by making antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil and clothes hangers and climbing up on their rooftops secretly at night to tune into Miami stations playing American music.

"My Secret Radio" is an Afro-Cuban love letter to the music heard on American radio stations.

"I love all the songs on the album, but my favorite is 'Lo Mio Primero,' which is the first single," said pianist/musical director Jorge Gomez, during a recent phone interview. "It's about a feeling. If you're Cuban, no matter where you're living, you bring Cuba with you."

Now based in Miami, Tiempo Libre is the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in America. Timba combines elements of traditional Cuban music -- salsa, jazz, rock and hip hop. Since its formation in 2001, Tiempo Libre has been on a mission to spread the popularity of Cuban music with its modern take on traditional Cuban songs and styles.

"Timba is what you get when you mix salsa with jazz," said Gomez. "Salsa is more acoustic with piano and timbales while timba features electric bass and keyboards and full drum sets. But, the roots are in the tradition Cuban music style known as son."

"We all went to La ENA (Havana's premier music college) but not at the same time. Our first show was opening for Celia Cruz. The high moment for us so far is when we were nominated for a Grammy.

"We studied only classical music at La ENA. At that time, if they caught you playing or listening to popular music, you'd get thrown out of school. We were studying Mozart, Haydn and Bach. Now, we've gone back to the beginning."

None of the band's members got expelled from La ENA. So, the secret radio was not only a success but also an inspiration for the title of the group's lively new album. With the growing stateside success of Tiempo Libre, it appears that the secret is no longer a secret.

Tiempo Libre will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000,   . Admission to the show is included with gardens admission - adults, $18; seniors, $15; students, $8; children (ages 4 and under), free.

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