“This is as close to Cuba as you can get without being in Cuba, the only thing missing is a cigar,” said Jesse Cowan who relished the beats and melody. “You can see the passion they have for their music, and pride they take in sharing it,” he added.
Formed in Havana in 1976 for a special performance at the University of Havana, Sierra Maestra was the first modern group to play with the classic son line-up of the 1920s and 1930s, which features tres, guitar, trumpet, bongos, guiro, maracas, clave, and vocals. To honor the birthplace of Son they named themselves after the mountain range in Cuba, which is also the birthplace of Fidel’s revolution.
Alejandro Suárez, musical director, said the most important thing for them is to keep loyal to the traditional roots in their music. After playing for 25 years they have developed their unique voice and played a crucial part in keeping the original sprit of the genre alive.
Suárez said the music reflects the African and Spanish heritage of Cubans, merging the cultures and sound to represent the voice of a country; that is heard around the world as Sierra Maestra travels abroad to perform in Canada, UK, and Australia among other countries. A sensation in Cuba and Latin America, Sierra Masestra was nominated for the Latin Grammy’s 2010.
The band members remain humble about the honor.
“Any musician can be successful if they play from heart,” said Suárez and added his favorite pieces to perform as son style because, “they are sweet.” He said their music is appreciated where ever they play; and with a twinkle in his eye he noted: “No one has ever said they do not like it.”
Vivek Thakur, who studies classical Indian music enjoyed the harmony in the music and the competitive interaction between the members added to his appreciation of the performance.
Sierra Maestra’s former leader Juan De Marcos González founded the Buena Vista Social Club, which is attributed as reviving Cuban and Latin American music at a global stage.
The group urged the audience to sing along prompting some to get up and dance as they tried to follow along with lyrics. This is the group’s second performance in Cleveland and Eduardo Himley, musical production manager for the group, said he enjoys the brief visits but would like to experience more of the city.
For Sherrie Pallotta watching Sierra Maestra perform live was a treat and she couldn’t resist getting up and to dance and groove to the romantic ballads. “This is what traditional salsa is all about,” she said and wished more young salsa dancers attended to appreciate the authentic sounds.
“We don’t have music like this in the USA,” said Cowan.
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