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Getting Into the Groove for Timba

Bandleader David Calzado finds the beat of new-generation style.


Ask any Cuban music aficionado about the salsa subgenre known as timba and you're likely to get a passionate response. A hyperkinetic style that emphasizes technical dexterity, split precision timing and an extra dash of syncopation, timba is heavily influenced by American funk and rap.

The genre has divided Afro-Cuban fans. Some praise its electrifying, hypnotic soundscapes. Others are bored by its occasionally repetitive grooves and lack of subtlety.

Now, Angelenos will have a chance to judge timba for themselves. One of its most talented exponents, bandleader David Calzado and his Charanga Habanera orchestra, will perform tonight at the Sportsmen's Lodge.

Together with pioneering outfit La Banda, Calzado has offered some of the most illustrious moments in the genre's brief history. A tune such as "Nube Pasajera" from his 1996 release "Pa' Que Se Entere La Habana," is simply mesmerizing, a roller coaster of gutsy rhythms and delectable vocal harmonies, as good as party music can get.

During a telephone interview while on tour in Puerto Rico, Calzado took a Zen attitude when discussing timba detractors.

"Every time you bring something new to the market, people are bound to criticize it," he said. "When Johann Sebastian Bach died, critics said his music wasn't any good. And yet, he's one of the most revered composers in history."

When it came to defining timba and naming its inventors, Calzado said the style was created in the 1980s through the combined efforts of Irakere's Chucho Valdes, Los Van Van's Juan Formell and La Banda's Jose Luis Cortes. Timba itself is a hybrid, he said, fusing genres from different countries, including Brazil and Cuba.

Although Calzado's songs boast the occasional rap interlude, he said he did not borrow this stylistic device from American hip-hop.

"I first used [rap] in 1993, and I swear to God I hadn't heard any funk or rap records at the time," he said. "This was a parallel development that took place both in the United States and in the marginalized neighborhoods of Cuba. It was a coincidence. By 1995, of course, I had already been introduced to hip-hop records from the States."

Still, Calzado emphasizes that his predilection for timba doesn't obscure his love for traditional Cuban music.

"My father and grandfather were traditional musicians," he said. "And I hold the deepest love for the Golden Age of Cuban music. The stuff I play, however, is the style of the new generation."


David Calzado y Su Charanga Habanera performs tonight at 10 at the Sportsmen's Lodge, 4234 Coldwater Canyon Blvd., Studio City. $20-$25. Call (310) 450-8770.

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