Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shakori Highlights: Locos Por Juana

The bedredlocked singer of Miami's Locos Por Juana calls this one out as their "salsa," yet you would have a hard time identifying any salsa elements in it:

Miami ragamuffins Locos Por Juana in the Dance Tent Friday night

Lead Loco, guitarist Marc [last name], will be the first to tell you: they are not a salsa band. (So he told me after this gig, anyway.) What they are is about a thousand pounds of fun, and their rock fusion repertoire includes a lot of reggae vibes and the occasional heavy cumbia funk. Reflecting the urban melange of hip, hot Miami, the majority of Locos musicians are Colombian, with one Cuban, one Mexican, and two Puerto Rican members. From PR are the rapper [name TBA] and bari sax player Jose "Sapo" [last name], from Mayaguez, who told me his section normally includes a trumpet and trombone.


Love the band; but have to say, I didn't love it as a pick for the Dance Tent preceded by a "Salsa Workshop." A friend I ran into there called that "misleading," and I have to agree, even though neither of us wanted to shortshrift this band on its own groovy merits. This is great music, but doesn't require a dance floor or lessons to get down.

Shakori's Latin programming has been instinctively quite good (with some jackpot surprises like the inclusion of Puerto Rico's Plena Libre last time), but sometimes it's a little hit or miss from the point of view of dancers. I hope the festival programmers will take a teeny bit more seriously the beautiful concept embodied in a DANCE Tent itself: to promote, preserve and present folkloric, traditional dance culture. They don't all have to be canonical or even salsa, but there are many directions in tropical dance that the festival hasn't gone yet; how about bringing a first-class bachata or merengue band? Or punta (although La Fiesta del Pueblo has been hitting that hard by inviting Honduran bands the last few years)? I don't think we've ever had real Colombian folk music, like Totó La Momposina for instance. I would love to hear Colombian champeta or something from Costa Rica, where the mix often includes African, Cuban and Caribbean genres.

If all else fails, why not bring back Ricardo Lemvo y Makina Loca, he hasn't played the Triangle in years, but that was one of the best Dance Tent experiences we (the Latin dancers) have ever been given at Shakori. Or Richmond's Bio Ritmo, they haven't sat on their laurels but keep moving in new directions with their latest album and side projects. To my friends at Shakori, I'd be happy to provide some curatorial consultation if called upon, which is not to say I don't dig your taste and adventurous spirit. You have gone out on a limb more than once, and I always love the music. But in the Dance Tent at least, first and foremost, let's present dance culture. There's a lot of variety in the grassroots world of Latin dance that Shakori hasn't touched on yet.

That said: The explosive, positive energy of Locos Por Juana moves out to the grassy stages for their second show tonight, 8 pm Saturday.

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