Live Reviews

Live Review: Gilles Peterson And Roberto Fonseca Present Havana Cultura LIVE at The Barbican on 6 Jul

By | Published on Monday 19 July 2010

Gilles Peterson

We’ve written quite a lot about Gilles Peterson’s ‘Havana Cultura’ project since it was originally unleashed last October. This was his effort to bring his “new Cuban sound” to the stage, with the help of Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca.

To kick things off at this live extension of it, we were treated to a short film explaining the original ‘Havana Cultura’ project, which involved Peterson going to Cuba to track down the country’s newest talent and most current ‘sound’. The Havana Cultura band features some of that talent and as the film finished, they arrived on stage to a considerable fanfare. Gilles then gave a little sermon about the project and we were off. Opening track ‘Revolucion del Cuerpo’ got things going with some real promise, with lots of energy and a great pace, aided by Havana-based duo Ogguere on vocals.

As the band worked their way though the subsequent tracks all manner of instruments were employed. The AfroCuban hybrid that is ‘Roforofo Fight’ came with some saxophone, while Joel Hierrezuelo, Ramses Rodriguez and Vince Vella provided some very fine percussion and drums.

Then Omar Gonzalez started strumming a very peculiar electronic double bass while the aforementioned Fonseca played the keys with convincing passion, his speedily delivered high notes tinkling. For ‘Lento y Despacio’ flute player Javier Zalba was added into the mix, though he sounded, perhaps, a little too rough and ready. Still, Fonseca’s playing became more frantic, pleasing his audience immensely.

Vocalist Danay Espinita sauntered on for ‘Lagrima de Soledad’, with her fresh face and natural vocals, and brought a certain honesty to the proceedings. Apologising for her actually pretty reasonable English, she declared “love is the most important word in life” before introducing her new track ‘Ser O No Ser’, a song which resulted in more Fonseca getting carried away on the keys.

But what about Gilles? Well, come ‘Think Twice’ he returned to add some beats and pieces via a nifty console under more vocals from Espinita. She turned from singing to rapping her lyrics, in a way, while traditional Cuban trumpeter Jay Phelps stood forward for a solo. Now genres were being well and truly amalgamated on stage.

Ogguere returned for what is probably the most catchy and memorable track from the album, ‘Arroz con Pollo’, and soon had the audience singing along to the chorus, in fact this was the liveliest I’d ever seen a Barbican audience. Not a soul remained seated once this pair were up and running, making for the highlight of the night.

For the encore, the modern jazz fusion of ‘Mi Gente’, with its Latin lyrics and a nod to Africa, and then ‘Rezando’, which got the remix treatment in a Michel Cleis style, as per the ‘Havana Cultura’ remix album – though it lost some of its clunkiness ‘live’. And finally some African tribal rhythms for the slightly more abstract final track, ‘En lo profundo’. And then to the foyer for a Peterson DJ set with yet more Fonseca on keyboard and some freestyle rapping from ‘Ogguere’.

An excellent finish to a rather special night – I am sure we will be hearing much more from these talents for years to come. PV

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