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Lemvo and Makina Loca make for unique Afro-Cuban experience

| Monday, September 28, 2015

AfroCuban_WebEric Richelsen | The Observer

Imagine a stereotypical Thursday night. No class, no homework, no problems. Mind on Feve? Mind on Netflix? Personally, I had my mind on Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca’s Afro-Cuban music concert in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Afro-Cuban music — an alluring mixture of Cuban rhythms and Congo beats — rang in each audience member’s heads for two hours that night. Ricardo Lemvo, a Los Angeles native of African descent, matched pitch with the California-based band Makina Loca. Together, the two performed head-bobbing, hip-moving rhythms for audience members of all backgrounds to enjoy.

The band — consisting of a guitarist, bassist, pianist, drummer, conga player and trumpeters — provided a sweet blend of Latino and African musical cultures. Lemvo, who entered the stage dressed in original African clothing, immediately brought the crowd to its feet by singing mariachi-styled tunes with powerful drums and energetic trumpet solos.

Throughout the performance, Lemvo urged audience members to dance and relish each other’s company. After jiving to the first song in their seats, audience members walked to the aisles in pairs to salsa, tango and mambo to each piece. Though fearful at first, I finally mustered the courage to dance, learning a blend of traditional African and Latino moves from fellow audience members. Throughout the concert, I would periodically search the auditorium, spotting families, couples and friends dancing with one another as Lemvo and Makina Loca jammed to their rhythms and lyrics.

Audience members both on the ground and in upper-level seating experienced Afro-Cuban music through the lyrics and dance. Through Lemvo’s periodic shouting and the band members’ individual bits of dancing, everyone within the DPAC auditorium experienced a first-hand example of African and Latino culture. Lemvo and Makina Loca’s dance-like tempos, as well as Lemvo’s constant urge for his audience members to grab a partner and experience culture firsthand, was exemplified by my Spanish professor greeting me and exclaiming, “We Latin Americans can’t still during a concert!”

All in all, the Afro-Cuban performance by Lemvo and Makina Loca provided audience members with the opportunity to listen and take part in a uniquely-blended culture. When I first witnessed audience members dancing to the complicated conga beats and excellent trumpet solos, I felt uncomfortable and awkward. Once I got over my unfamiliarity, however, I embraced the mix of mariachi and African music by allowing the beats to course through me. In that way, Lemvo and Makina Loca’s performance brought an honest and unique interpretation of two cultures through carefree music and dance.

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