La-33 brings unique salsa arrangements to Green
By Ann Baum
Published on Friday, July 2, 2010
For those members of the audience who couldn’t see the band members of La-33, the Colombian salsa band that performed at the free outdoor concert Tuesday afternoon, the crowd alone offered a spectacle worth watching. With many locals and a handful of students exercising their salsa dancing skills on the Green, Hanover residents of all ages took advantage of the lively music and superb weather.
La-33 — named after the street in Bogotá, Colombia where the band’s offices are located — made its U.S. debut during the concert on the Green, which was presented by the Hopkins Center.
Before the band played a single note, the musicians’ outfits made it clear that they were not a typical salsa group. From dreadlocks to an AC/DC t-shirt, the 12 band members’ appearances reflected their differing musical backgrounds and interests, which include ska, rock and heavy metal.
“We grew up listening to rock,” Juan David Fernandez, one of the members of the band, said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
Although many of the band members are young and have varied musical training, their style of salsa is reminiscent of the salsa from the 1960s and 70s, Fernandez said.
“Salsa has changed a lot over the years, and it has lost a lot of the charm it had,” Fernandez said. “We’re trying to bring it back.”
The use of music for political expression was a common device in traditional salsa music but has disappeared from more modern performances, though La-33 has incorporated messages of social consciousness in some of its music, according to band member Juan Felipe Cardenas.
Some of La-33’s songs feature snippets from speeches by Colombian politicians, though the band supports the people of its home country rather than any specific political figures, Cardenas said.
The opening song of Tuesday’s performance, “Ten Cuidado,” which roughly translates to “watch out,” warns against being “taken away by the current,” according to Fernandez. The performance of “Ten Cuidado” was fast-paced and energetic, with an interesting use of traffic sound effects and other musical twists.
Along with many original songs, the band also played a cover of The Police’s “Roxanne” and its own twist on “The Pink Panther” theme.
“We sound just like The Police,” one band member joked on stage after the performance of “Roxanne.”
Margaret Lawrence, director of programming at the Hopkins Center, said many attendees at the concert commented on the “surprising arrangements.”
The audience’s willingness to dance was indicative of the liveliness of the performance.
“In Hanover, it sometimes takes a little longer to get people dancing,” Lawrence said.
The band members — who had heard that people here are “kind of cold” — were also pleasantly surprised by the audience’s reaction to their music, Fernandez said.
“It was totally the opposite,” Fernandez said. “A lot of dancing of all ages.”
The diversity in age was something new to the band, which typically plays at nightclubs or other venues that generally attract only adults, according to Fernandez.
Lawrence noted that a free, outdoor concert tends to be “completely inter-generational,” which was evidenced by the large number of picnickers and pets present at the show.
Students also noticed the wide variety of people present at the event.
“It’s nice to see that this exists because we don’t see the members of the Upper Valley community very often,” Brittney Frankel ’12 said.
The low student turnout at the show was also noticeable, though many wandered by the performance on their way across the Green.
“I think the students were in proportion to the number of students on campus,” Lawrence said, citing the low number of students on campus for Summer term.
Following Tuesday’s performance, the band plans to perform at the International Jazz Festival in Montreal and later at the Lincoln Center in New York. La-33 has travelled all over Europe, Japan, South America, and Morocco, among other places, according to Fernandez.