The Septeto Santiaguero travels to the past in the United States with his album Root

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The director and threeist of the Cuban band El Septeto Santiaguero, Fernando Dewar, during a meeting with EFE in Miami, Florida, on January 13, 2017. EFE

The Septeto Santiaguero, a small Cuban ensemble that sounds like an orchestra and whose instruments, except for the double bass, fit in a suitcase, intends to conquer the American public this summer with its music of “old flavor” and at the same time “contagious.”

The musicians from Santiago, the second city of Cuba, have already presented their album “Raíz” in seven American cities and they have many others, starting with Chicago, where they perform this weekend, and ending in California on the 12th.

Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Brooklyn, Newark, New York and Lowell (MA) have already danced with a repertoire that aims to “not forget anything about our music”, says director and threeist Fernando Dewar in a telephone interview with Efe.

“Although we communicate very little in English, people have reacted well. They accept us but we have to say that in almost all the scenarios we have had a mixed audience, North American and Latin in general, and of course Cubans out there, Says the director.

After triumphing in Europe and taking home a Latin Grammy for Traditional Music for “I do not want to cry: Tribute to Los Compadres” in 2015, Dewar and his team lacked the experience of the American market, for which they “fichados” in the Global Fest last January in New York and in May at the Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans.

“Our music is contagious, the wide range of themes we bring gives people a sense of hearing and they understand us.” We’ve even seen ‘casino wheels’, “he says.

Dewar refers to a Cuban dance in which up to 15 or 20 couples can participate in the form of a circle, and can be seen in the video clip “La meneadera” by Septeto himself.

“It works now in Europe. Encouraging the ‘casino wheel’ is a way to get closer to the youth, and I would say more: it is a movement that is now in the world, especially in Europe.”

With an old flavor, but presented live with choreographies of “much movement and actuality”, “Raíz”, the ninth album of the group, includes boleros, guarachas, sones, changüí (a variant of Guantanamera son), danzones and trova.
To have, “Root” has up to a jazzy angle.

“It’s the first time we’ve interacted with this world and in” Root “we do it with the collaboration of great jazz stars like Nicholas Payton (trumpet player) and Arturo O’Farrill (pianist),” says Alden González, Septeto public relations .

After 22 years of career and acting in stages of more than 40 countries, Septeto Santiaguero obtained that the Cuban state record company EGREM will publish “its” Root “, that in the United States is distributed by Los Canarios Music, company of the well-known Dominican interpreter José Alberto El Canario.

After presenting it in Havana, the second official release of the album was at Joe’s Pub in New York on July 28 last.

The album includes performances by Panamanian salsa artist Rubén Blades, lead singer of Puerto Rico’s Gran Combo, Charlie Aponte, and the lead vocal of legendary Vieja Trova Santiaguera, Reinaldo Creagh, who died two years ago.

In “Root” is his last recording. His voice closes the disc with the bolero “En falso”.
The question that is obvious is how to store so many lines in a project that has not left out Cuban authors ranging from Pepe Sánchez, Sindo Garay, Arsenio Rodríguez and Ñico Saquito to Juan Formell, Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés.

“Of course in 11 grooves did not fit and that’s why we did 16. It’s not a standard for a record, but it’s not scandalous either,” says Dewar from Chicago.
The 51-year-old striker struggles with the idea that septets (now the Santiaguero is an octet) represent the past.

“We are looking for a drinking sound for those who, when they hear the word ‘septet’, think of quiet, old-school music. We want to change that idea,” says Dewar.

“We are not a limited format, even if we use simple instruments,” says the director. “The secret of all this is always to get back to the root,” he concludes.

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