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Cuban Music Group Tiempo Libre to Appear at Weis Center, Lewisburg
By Allison Ravenscott
January 19, 2012
The three-time Grammy nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre is coming to the Lewisburg to play and generally throw a Cuban music party on Friday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts (on the campus of Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837). Tickets are $20 and $10 for Bucknell students and may be ordered by calling 570-577-1000 or visiting
The Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio when the members of Tiempo Libre were growing up in Cuba.
But, like teenagers everywhere, that which was forbidden was what the members of Tiempo Libre most desired. The Cuban teenagers fashioned antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil and clothes hangers and climbed up on their rooftops secretly at night to tune into the music which pulsated from Miami airwaves.
This music of the night fueled their dreams of living in America and ultimately gave them the strength to leave it all behind - families, friends, a country, a life - to pursue those dreams.
Tiempo Libre has become known around the world for its joyous, sophisticated, dance-inducing concerts of timba music - a high-energy combination of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban "son." There hasn't been a concert yet where people haven't gotten out of their seats to dance in the aisles.
Based out of Miami, the group's goal is to serve as ambassadors to their Cuban musical heritage, while celebrating their new American experience. The group refers to its performances as Cuban parties rather than concerts, because they want audience members to feel free to sing, dance, holler and shout along with their infectious rhythms.
Tiempo Libre's new timba album, My Secret Radio, recalls their teenage years in Cuba when they improvised antennas out of things like aluminum foil and wire hangers in order to catch broadcasts of American radio coming in from Miami.
My Secret Radio, released last May, is an Afro-Cuban love letter to the music heard on American radio stations. Through the album, the seven musicians express the thrill they received from their secret rooftop radio sessions as well as the difficulties they faced having to start from scratch in America, a culture so foreign and different from Cuba.
Today, 10 years after forming the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S., having earned three Grammy nominations, having performed on NPR, at The Hollywood Bowl, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as TV's The Tonight Show and Dancing with the Stars, Tiempo Libre's musicians are truly living the American dream.
Just as jazz has travelled from New Orleans to Chicago, New York and around the world, Tiempo Libre's members see Cuban timba music as a living, breathing art form that continues to evolve over time. Tiempo Libre's sound honors the group's Cuban musical heritage, while incorporating their American experiences - funk, hip-hop, rap, jazz, ska and pop. Tiempo Libre's members are pure timberos. They listen to timba, they play it, they dance it, they live it. And as Cubans now living in the United States, they absorb the musical nutrients of this country - funk, hip hop, rap and jazz - which they also incorporate into their sound.
Tiempo Libre's recent Cuban music album, Bach in Havana (its first recording under its new deal on Sony Masterworks), was released in May, 2009, and earned the group its third Grammy nomination. The album takes Bach as a starting point from which to explore a wide range of Cuban music forms and rhythms and features guest tracks with Yosvany Terry and Paquito D'Rivera.
The album is a true reflection of the two worlds of Tiempo Libre's Cuban musical upbringing. Tiempo Libre's seven members led "double" lives studying classical music at Cuba's premiere Russian-style conservatories day and by night meeting up to play timba, Latin jazz as well as the rumba and in tambores.
In Bach, Tiempo Libre found a kindred spirit: a composer who wrote music in both the secular and the spiritual traditions. It was only natural that they would be interested in weaving their classical roots into a new musical tapestry.
In addition to recording the duet "Para Tí" with virtuoso violin player Joshua Bell (which is featured on Bell's most recent album, At Home With Friends), the group also performed with Bell on the Tonight Show and the Live From Lincoln Center PBS broadcast. In Fall 2008, Tiempo Libre recorded O'Reilly Street with leading flute player Sir James Galway, which included
an Afro-Cuban take on music from the jazz suites of Claude Bolling.
In Spring 2009, the group earned another high-octane accolade: The Cuban family behind Café Bustelo decided for the first time in 80 years to change the Café Bustelo can design to feature the group a long with a free download from the album.
Through all their travels, the seven members of Tiempo Libre stay true to their heritage. In the lyrics of one of their songs - Arroz con Mango--they ask themselves, as immigrants, "Who am I?" when the details which define a life are no longer at hand. And the joyful response is: "No matter where I am, I am Cuban by birth, I am the rhythm I carry inside me."
Fifty years since the Bay of Pigs and 10 years since their formation as the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S., there is not a moment Tiempo Libre's members take for granted. Says the group's pianist and musical director Jorge Gómez, "Every record we make, every concert we play seems like a gift. Each time we are about to walk on stage, I get a tingling sensation, that thrill that starts at the base of the spine and fills me with euphoria. It's that same thrill I felt up on that roof under the twinkling Havana stars, listening to my secret radio."