Happy Latin ‘Fiestas’

Trio Bembe celebrating the holidays with an upbeat performance

Local Latin jazz group Trio Bembe will take the stage with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra on Dec. 5. (Supplied photo)

One of the charms of Latin culture is enjoying the festivities with a lot of chimmys, samba and salsa to the beat of strings. Local jazz group Trio Bembe is familiar with the vibrant music styles from Latin America and are excited to play some pumped-up tunes alongside the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (WJO) on Dec. 5.

Formed by Rodrigo Muñoz, Amber Epp and Victor Hugo Lopez Bustamante, Trio Bembe incorporates traditional rhythms from Brazil, Cuba, Chile and more. Each band member has a personal connection with Latin music, whether it’s through growing up in Latin America or embracing the culture through living abroad.

“We’ve played together for many years, and our friendship and musical camaraderie helps us play together naturally and have fun at every performance. Our goal is to get everyone dancing – or at least tapping their toes!” Epp says in an email to The Uniter.

Given that it’s the season for end-of-year holiday celebrations, the group’s upcoming performance called Felices Fiestas will capture this feel, specifically through Afro-Cuban music arrangements. Some of the songs they will perform include “No Hay Cama Pa Tanta Gente” and “Bambarakatunga.”

“‘Bambarakatunga’ is a song recorded by the famous Celia Cruz that talks about a whole nation dancing in the streets for a festive occasion. Also made famous by Cruz is a tune titled ‘Quimbara,’ which talks about music and dance that are very important in Cuban bembés (parties),” Muñoz says.

This isn’t the first time the group has performed with the WJO, but it’s still exciting for the trio – especially when painting a picture of the joyous Latin American holiday spirit.

“We usually play as a trio, so it’s exciting for our band to grow from three people to about 20 people. That’s a big sound! And when we write music for the big band, it’s fun to look for ways to ‘expand’ a song to include a lot of different colours and musical textures that they don’t usually have,” Epp says.

The show will also mark the live premiere of Muñoz’s piece “Cumbia Retro,” which is from his other music group, Papa Mambo. “Cumbia Retro” is a big-band Cumbia chart he wrote for the WJO.

“Cumbia is one of the most popular dance forms from Latin America. This dance, which originally comes from Colombia, has spread all over the world, and this genre is a must in a Latin household when partying,” Muñoz says.

Felices Fiestas will be showcased at the Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre (711 Jefferson Ave.) on Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $39 for adults and $19 for students. There will be free parking and street parking available for attendees. The show will be recorded and available from Dec. 10 to 26 for $22 per household. For more information, visit winnipegjazzorchestra.com.

Published in Volume 76, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 25, 2021)

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