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A taste of real Cuba coming to Iowa City with Afro-Cuban All Stars

BY RACHAEL LANDER | MARCH 10, 2009 7:27 AM

Time to pull out those dancing shoes and head out for a night on the town. Popular Cuban singer Juan de Marcos González will bring the Afro-Cuban All Stars to West High tonight for a culturally infused music performance worthy of some solid dance moves.

González and the Afro-Cuban All Stars will play at 7:30 p.m. today. After the show, people are invited to hang around and meet the members of the famous Cuban band.

“When I’m performing, I’m trying to show the world diversity of Cuban culture,” González said.
The Havana native has been around music since his youth. Influenced by the Cuban music scene as well as his artistic family, he spent his childhood absorbed in music.

He credits his father as one of his biggest influences. His father possessed a remarkable amount of knowledge despite not attending school, González said.

“I’m not the half of what my father was in terms of intelligence, natural intelligence,” he said.
His father was a singer as well, but he did not want González to follow in his path. In fact, González didn’t for quite some time. He went to school and studied hydraulic engineering, but during that time, he formed his first band, Sierra Maestra.

González and Sierra Maestra completed a successful international tour. Afterwards, he went back to Cuba and formed the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Some members came from Africa to lend their musical talents to the group, and González calls the band the Afro-Cuban All Stars because of the influences behind the music.

He evidently chose the right path by sticking to music and straying from engineering. With his albums selling more than 12 million copies worldwide — with around 3 million to 4 million of those sold in the United States — he said he thinks his success is remarkable.

“We never thought we would sell so many albums,” he said.

The Afro-Cuban All Stars’ impressive record sales combined with the popularity of its concerts all but guarantee the group will continue to successfully bring its Cuban-flavored music to the world.
Because of conflicts between United States and Cuba, González and the Afro-Cuban All Stars have not been on tour in the United States since 2003. He hopes the relationships between the two countries will grow stronger under President Obama’s administration.

For this current tour, he was unsure how many people would be able to attend concerts because of the economic downturn. He was happily surprised to find that most of the band’s concerts were selling out .

“It is extremely incredible that we are bringing so many people to our concerts,” González said. “I try to bring them happiness in order to keep them going in this hard time.”

As for the genre itself, he said that during the ’60s, Cuban music was very well-liked in the United States, and he hopes that he can help bring the love of Cuban music back to the States.

“It’s a normal market for the Cuban music,” he said. “I hope that in the upcoming future, things will get back to where we were in the ’60s.”

At the heart of it all, González hopes that his music will spread his love for Cuban culture, and will help “open the doors of America to Cuban music again.”


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