SINTESIS with QUINTETA DE LA TROVA at Harbourfront Centre, July 19. Tickets: Free. Attendance: 1,500. Rating: NNN
Of all the music that's spilled out of Cuba in the last few years, little of it has sounded particularly modern, at least in North American terms.The fascination with the music of Cuba's past has been justified but also overwhelming, so to get a glimpse of something distinctly modern is an event in itself.
At Friday's Ritmo Y Color opening at Harbourfront, son strummers Quinteta De La Trova provided the old-school flavour, while Havana's Sintesis brought the new. It was an awkward mix of styles -- more than a handful of people who danced and clapped along to Quinteta stormed out of Sintesis's 90-minute performance holding their ears, but many more stayed, purely out of curiosity.
Sintesis play Cuban progressive rock, with all the baggage such a term contains, mixing Afro-Cuban percussion with brooding synth lines, loud guitars and dramatic singing. Blame the embargo, but perhaps no one told the crew that wailing guitar solos and slapped funky bass aren't exactly cutting-edge in 2002. As a result, the big band's operatic rock sounded decidedly corny early on.
Things picked up when the actual synthesis happened. Gradually, the group's disparate elements of classic rock, driving percussion and hiphop began to come together, forming a sound that was neither old nor new but something in between.
Whether anyone beyond the crowd of flag-waving Cubans up front truly appreciated the energetic mix was debatable, though. An hour in, Sintesis went for the jugular with a hiphop-juiced salsa jam. Arms went up and the Cuban revolution, at least briefly, went modern.