Audiences can celebrate world music with an emphasis on Cuban rhythms during the annual Afro Roots Fest showcase in Key West. Music and film events are planned Thursday through Saturday, April 18-20, in multiple venues around the Florida Keys island that lies just 90 miles from Havana.
The cultural kaleidoscope is to begin at 9 p.m. Thursday with a kick-off party at the Green Parrot Bar (601 Whitehead St.), featuring live music by Electric Piquete. The critically acclaimed Latin funk and fusion band is known for its innovative originals and interpretations drawing on Afro-Caribbean, jazz and rock influences. There is no cover charge for the show and everyone age 21 and over is welcome.
The focus turns to film Friday, April 19,with a 6p.m. showing of the musical documentary “Eliades Ochoa: From Cuba to the World” at The Studios of Key West (533 Eaton St.). Ochoa has been called “The Cuban Johnny Cash,” and, as an original member of the renowned musical group Buena Vista Social Club, the legendary guitarist has spent lifetime sharing his love for traditional Cuban folk music with the world.
The film directed by Cynthia Biestek and Ruben Gomez follows the path of a poor country musician from Cuba who spreads his beloved traditional music across the globe. The documentary offers “a rare glimpse into the daily lives of the Cuban people,” says Biestek.
Ochoa grew up immersed in Son Cubano, a genre of music originating in east Cuba in the late 1800s. Son Cubano blends the rhythms of the Bantu region of Central Africa with Hispanic vocal styles.
At age 6, Ochoa began playing his guitar in the streets of eastern Cuba. He joined a slew of folk groups, finally finding wide acclaim with Buena Vista Social Club. The documentary pulls together rare pictures, archived material and interviews to present Ochoa’s incredible journey and the rich musical heritage of his country.
From the streets of Santiago de Cuba, to the stages of London, Madrid and New York, Ochoa has played some of the most interesting venues in the world. With an incredible ability to play a huge range of musical styles, he’s famous for his collaborations with artists from Cuba and beyond.
A question-and-answer session with the director and a reception for film fans are to follow the screening. The film is 100 minutes, screened in Spanish with English subtitles. Tickets are $10. Reserve your spot at www.tskw.org or by calling 305-296-0458.
The Studios of Key West also is the setting for a Saturday night concert of Cuban music by Cortadito, whose traditional stylings have evoked comparisons to the Buena Vista Social Club. Based in Miami, Cortadito is renowned for performing standards, bringing explosive Cuban energy to classic arrangements.
Cortadito specializes in performing Cuban music from the early 20th century, transporting listeners to a time when Trio Matamoros and Ignacio Piniero ruled the Cuban music world. The band, which recently released a new EP of music called “Canciones de Julio,” performs standards in the traditional stylings called Son Montuno, Guaracha, Bolero, Nengon and Bolero Son.
From time to time, Cortadito is backed by a variety of guest musicians, which gives the group a sound reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club. Celebrate the release of the band’s latest album with house-made mojitos and cigars hand-rolled on site at The Studios of Key West. Tickets are $32/$25 members, $55 preferred, and can be purchased online at www.tskw.org, by calling 305-296-0458 or by visiting The Studios’ box office at 533 Eaton St.
Following the concert, music lovers can head to the Green Parrot for a 10 p.m. after-party showcasing the distinctive sound of the Spam Allstars, whose music has been called everything from a blend of electronica, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop to a “descarga,” or Latin jam.
The Afro Roots Fest also features events in Islamorada and Key Largo. A Memorial Day weekend concert is planned Sunday, May 26, at Islamorada’s Florida Keys Brewing Co. in the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District. Key Largo’s festival event is scheduled for June 28-29 at the Murray Nelson Government & Cultural Center. ¦