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One World Concert features El Gran Combo and unifies Latin arts, culture, and community at CSU

By Arooj Ashraf, LaPrensa Correspondent

In an unprecedented event, Cleveland State University’s Wolfstein Center hosted one of the first International Latino groups, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, on Friday, Sept. 2, 2011.

The sensational artists performed in front of about 1,200 people and demonstrated their standing as the island’s most popular salsa group.  El Gran Combo played their first gig in San Juan in 1962 and through the next several decades, the band’s style altered and evolved to fit Latin dance-music trends, from boogaloo and merengüe to tango and bomba.  

VIP guests received access to the dance floor and the opportunity to meet the band backstage and pose for photos.

The One World concert was more than a music performance; event chairs Dr. María Pujana and Patsy Bilbao-Berkman and promoter Janet García dedicated the event strengthening community ties through arts, culture, and community service.

“This is our opportunity to unite as One World  - Una Comunidad,” said García, referencing the spirit of El Gran Combo’s latest version of their song, “And I don’t do anything else,” asking all of the Puerto Ricans to strive for a better quality of life.

Patsy Berkman , Dr. Maria Pujana, Janet Garcia,  and band members of El Gran Combo backstage

Miriam Rosa and Antonio Barrios, the Lorain Arts Council

Dr. Pujana said the mission was to increasing visibility of the Latino communities’cultural, ethnic diversity and awareness of the services available through local non-profit organizations.  It was a rare opportunity for all sectors to collaborate and strengthen relationships for a unified city in action.

Sharing the spotlight with the legendary group were 42 local artists, music groups, performers and non-profit organizations displaying colorful array of talent, enthusiasm, and passion within Cleveland. 

Before the concert, guests enjoyed cultural and contemporary dances, art displays, and received information regarding various non-profit organizations that provide special services to Latino and minority communities.

Rick A. Kemm and Blanca Figueroa of the May Dugan Center were among many of the non-profit organizations spreading the word about their services. The Center provides educational assistance with GEDs, English-as-a-second-language courses, unemployment assistance, food and clothing. Kemm said on average the Center delivers 70,000 meals annually within the community.

Emerging artists like Marco Ivan Grgurevic, lead singer and composer for Grupo Son Gitano welcomed the opportunity to share his passion for salsa music and said he was humbled to be in the presence of legends. Grgurevic formed the group two years ago, but has been composing songs in Spanish since he was 14 years old. He said finding the right members was a challenge but the seven members bring their eclectic expertise and backgrounds for a unique sound.

“We are not trying to conform,” he said, adding their music is Latin fusion rather than traditional salsa. Son Gitano has performed at local festivals including Wade Oval Wednesday’s series. “My goal was to make one person tap their foot to our music,” said Grgurevic. Their recently released CD features 6 original songs and was recorded by the only Latino-owned recording company in Cleveland, Whoville Recording.

Antonio Barrios, president of the Lorain Arts Council, expressed his gratitude to organizer Will Sánchez for the opportunity to display and share the art rendered by artists from Lorain. He said as schools struggle with budgets for the arts, the Council is trying to bridge the gap and provide opportunities to youth and adults to express their selves.

The council offers classes that range from photography, painting, to zentangle. “Artists truly are an economic engine,” said Barrios, adding that the deflated economy makes every sale important for struggling artists.

US Congresswoman Marcia Fudge presented event chairs and organizers with special congressional recognitions and applauded their efforts. Awards and proclamations were also presented by representatives of US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland City Council.

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Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/06/11 12:38:08 -0700.





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