Respect. This is the grind of what Nuyoricans would call the cuchifrito circuit. I understand the decisions they have to, and are willing to, make in order to bring a touch of Latin American zing to Sheffield's night life.
For years, they've held a once weekly residency at Cubana where they played Cubanesque standards such as 'El Cuarto de Tula' and 'Montón de Estrellas'. Then Inventive Leisure decided to diversify to include rum-based drinks and launched its Revolución de Cuba chain, opening a branch in Sheffield's city centre a salsa song's walk from Cubana - the fit-out has been superb, and the balance of drinks on offer very well-judged.
And so it transpires that Son Para Todos now have three residency slots, playing twice weekly in Revolución de Cuba on Thursday and Friday nights as well.
|A wee slice of fantasy Cuba on Mappin Street|
I turned up to listen and to get a vibe of the place on Thursday evening. The bar was humming with activity from the beginning of their first set at about 8pm. The hubbub continued its crescendo even when the final strains of their third set faded at 10:30 and Stephen 'DJ Gordo Mágico' Jackson worked the decks.
Chatting with Armando over a mojito, I said that I'd noticed that there were new numbers in their repertoire, mainly at chachachá /son montuno tempo from the Latin Crossover pocket (think Santana), salsafied pop, and some reggae. He gave a wry smile, gestured to the crowd, and said that they'd had to expand and diversify their selection, what with having to play longer and on two consecutive evenings. I told Armando that I thought Son Para Todos had made the right decision - I know plenty of salsa bandleaders who would sneer at playing this mix, but these are ones who have the luxury of not having to perform for a living.
Actually I think that Son Para Todos are being true to their name - bringing the experience of son and its children to everyone - and playing the key role of cultural mediator. And they do so deftly and with aplomb. Cultural mediators are necessary. They are the conduits by which the salsa scene is (Re)energised and (Re)vitalised. A case in point being that when I popped in on Nicolai's lesson two days later: I stepped through Cubana's aged wooden doors to be greeted by two young English lads who introduced themselves to me as Chris and George. They were both there for their first salsa lesson after having been completely taken by the atmosphere at Revolución de Cuba, and I was recognised from there.
I would also confess that my first four Latin CDs were Gloria Estefan's 'Mi Tierra', Alfredo Gutiérrez's 'El Palito', Cheito Quiñones' eponymous album, and La Conexión's 'Conexión Latina'; of which Gloria's and Cheito's were my early favourites. As an ethnomusicologist of transnational genres, I understand the importance of crossover artists as cultural mediators, and am happy to say that Son Para Todos are as deft as they come.
Loo Yen Yeo