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Tiempo Libre

The East Carolinian

Cuban band Tiempo Libre brings their award winning music to ECU

The East Carolinian

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

by Lynsey Horn

An energetic group of musicians is coming to ECU to play their original style of music for Pirates who want an authentic Cuban experience.  

Tiempo Libre is a three-time Grammy-nominated group of seven classically trained musicians based out of Miami but originally from Cuba. Nine years ago, Jorge Gomez, Joaqin “El Kid” Diaz, Leandro Gonzalez, Tebello “Tony” Fonte, Cristobal Ferrer Garcia, Hilario Bell and Luis “Rosca” Beltran Castillo were reunited in Miami after leaving Cuba for several years. They all studied together at La Escuela Nacional de Arte, Cuba’s premier conservatory during a time when it was illegal to listen to American music on the radio.

“All five of us spent 10 years in other countries –– Italy, Germany, Mexico,” said Gomez in an article on “When you talk about music here in Miami … It’s a small city. Everybody knows everybody. ‘Hey, you know who’s here? Yeah, Joaqin is here now.’ And that’s how we got together.”

They got their start opening for Celia Cruz in front of 50,000 people at a festival in Chicago. The producers for the performance were looking for a group that no one had heard of before.

“We got lucky,” said Gomez, pianist and musical director for the group.

The type of music the group plays is called timba, which is a combination of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban son. Although, according to Gomez, the seven musicians grew up listening to all types of music including cha cha, timba, salsa, Chaka Khan and even Earth, Wind and Fire, all of which are incorporated or have some influence on their music.

The group’s goal, according to their biography, is to “reinterpret and reinvigorate traditional Cuban music with a youthful, modern sound and forging a new style born from the meeting of their Cuban roots and their new American experience.”

On their newest CD, “Bach in Havana,” they take their classical training and mix it with their Cuban heritage to create a fusion of Bach with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Also according to their biography, Bach has been an inspiration to the members of the group since childhood, which is what led them to create an album based around his work.

All members of the group sing but each member plays a different role in creating their unique sound. Gomez is the musical director, arranger and keyboard player. Diaz sings lead vocals, Gonzales plays congas and Fonte plays electric bass. The trumpet is played by Garcia, percussion and timbales by Bell and tenor saxophone by Castillo.

Tiempo Libre has worked with other famous musicians like Joshua Bell and Paquito d’Riviera. They have also performed on shows like “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brian,” “Live from the Lincoln Center” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Their performances and shows are described by many as energetic and upbeat.

“Nothing short of high voltage … Tiempo Libre is a hot, hot act,” said a review by Blaze, Evolution Publishing, Australia.

According to their press release, they have never had a concert where the audience did not get up and dance.

“We are crazy musicians. Dancing, singing, playing! It’s very contagious,” said Gomez.

The group has played all over the world in places like Turkey, Italy and even Hong Kong. At the end of October, they will perform in Tel Aviv in Israel. But before they travel there, the groups will be stopping by ECU to “perform and generally throw one big Cuban party” in Wright Auditorium on Oct. 18.  The group says they are excited to come back to ECU and North Carolina because they always have a good time and people know their music here.

“Don’t be afraid to enjoy the show, move your body and become a new Cuban,” said Gomez.

read the full article: The East Carolinian