Son still rising

SON ACHE at Cervejaria (842 College), Fridays. $10. 416-588-0162. And at the Bamboo (370.


SON

ACHE at Cervejaria (842

College), Fridays. $10. 416-588-0162.

And at the Bamboo (370 Queen West),

Saturday (February 16). $10.

416-593-5771.

Rating: NNNNN

SON ACHE at Cervejaria (842 College), Fridays. $10. 416-588-0162. And at the Bamboo (370 Queen West), Saturday (February 16). $10. 416-593-5771.

maybe cultural authenticity isn’t the big asset it’s cracked up to be.Take Toronto son montuno orquesta Klave y Kongo. What initially set them apart from the rest of the bands caught up in the Cuba craze of the late 90s, beyond the fact that they weren’t actually Cuban, was how real they sounded.

Klave’s mambos and guaguancos seemed as though they came straight from a curbside bar in Santiago de Cuba, not a Brazilian sports cafe on College Street. Even Cuban giants like Compay Segundo and Sierra Maestra were impressed enough with the group’s proficiency to sit in, but maybe the group was too successful at recreating the sound of 50s Cuba.

“Klave y Kongo were essentially a cover band,” percussionist Gustavo Rosa explains. “We were just playing old music. There was actually an explicit thing about sounding old, like the Buena Vista Social Club.

“Eventually some of the guys wanted to create our own sound, and that was impossible, so we split.”

When the group dissolved two years ago, the Klave y Kongo engine of guitarist Cristian Saldivia, tres strummer Jay Danley and Rosa went on to form Son Ache.

The eight-piece ensemble’s driving Cuban dance songs still sound authentic, but crucially, the set list is now made up of originals rather than to-the-letter versions of Beny More and Arsenio Rodriguez classics.

“In this group, everybody helps create new material,” offers Rosa. “It’s a real group rather than a collection of musicians. When we do play a cover, we try to play a different arrangement, so it sounds like 2002 Toronto rather than 1952 Havana.

“We’re trying to play this music with an edge, and we don’t want to sound like impersonators.”

With three different singers, including Quimica Perfecta’s Alberto Alberto and salseros Angel Luis and Evaristo Machado, the new sound deftly straddles classic, stately son as well as more explosive contemporary salsa.

It’s a unique arrangement, and one that, on the group’s new four-song EP, Los Que Lo Bailan, eschews salsa’s traditional horn overload for a more rootsy approach.

“Instead of having a huge brass section, we have this massive vocal section,” Rosa continues. “There are three main singers, but sometimes there are as many as five people singing.

“It means we have to rehearse at least once a week,” he laughs, “which is something that isn’t that common with salsa bands.”

It’s also a set-up engineered specifically for dance-floor demolition. In addition to Saturday’s (February 16) special set at the Bamboo, Son Ache have taken over Klave’s regular Friday gig at Cervejaria and maintained the night’s reputation as the city’s hottest Latin dance night.

The standards are high, and Rosa and crew know what happens if the band starts to slip.

“We have people who come to Cervejaria every week,” he laughs. “They aren’t shy about telling you when you make a mistake. They’ll either stop dancing or ambush you at the break and say why last week was better.

“It’s also great to see how our own songs work instead of the old standards. It’s beautiful to see people singing along with these songs that we wrote and that aren’t on any CD. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.”mattg@nowtoronto.com

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