Tiempo Libre creates foreign experience for audience

By Jen Lassen

Arts & Life Editor

Sure, we live in Central Pennsylvania, but it only takes a bit of believing and a whole lot of music to transport us to Cuba.

This is exactly what happened on Friday, Feb. 3 when the three-time Grammy nominated, all-Cuban timba band Tiempo Libre performed at the University. The Weis Center for the Performing Arts was transformed from Lewisburg’s best concert hall to an Afro-Cuban celebration where audience members could not help but join in on the fun.

Right from the start, pianist and musical director of the group Jorge Gomez said “this isn’t going to be a regular concert; it’s going to be a Cuban party!”

And boy, was he right. The group, comprised of Gomez, Joaquin “El Kid” Diaz (lead vocals), Tebelio “Tony” Fonte (bass), Luis Beltran Castillo (saxophone and flute), Leandro Gonzales (congas), Raúl Rodríguez (trumpet) and Armando “Pututi” Arce (drums), confidently began performing with such intensity and flavor that audience members had no choice but to tap their feet, snap their fingers and jump out of their seats to dance along to the beat. University students danced down the aisles shaking their hips to the melodies, while older couples swayed to the music together in the balcony and audience members hopped out of their seats to bust out moves of their own, creating a uniting cultural experience for all.

It quickly became apparent how well the group collaborated together to form their own unique, high-voltage, Afro-Cuban sound. The group started their performance with an upbeat instrumental piece; then Diaz joined in and began singing beautiful and impassioned Spanish lyrics that captured the audience’s attention. Although the majority of the audience probably had no idea what was being said, Diaz’s soul, passion and dedication to his vocals were mesmerizing.

The group’s Cuban roots certainly were showcased on stage; all members of the band–including the drummer–were dancing in classic Cuban style and singing in Spanish throughout the entire show.

“[They] listened to Cuban music and grew up with the culture,” Gomez said.

Above all, Tiempo Libre exuded pure joy while performing. Their enthusiasm for their music was infectious: shortly after they began playing their instruments the audience seemed to get up, one by one, to participate in the “Cuban party” created by Tiempo Libre.

“The upbeat rhythms and passionate vocals really reflected the energy and dynamism of Tiempo Libre. Their entire performance was inspiring–I loved every minute of it!” Emily Heller ’15 said.

Even though our “bubble” is small and fairly isolated from foreign places like Cuba, Tiempo Libre’s performance had the power to take us there within minutes. The artists seemed to invoke “mucha felicidad” (much happiness) into the lives of the listeners,transformed into Cuban dancers. Those who attended would agree that the experience was a positive “culture shock” we all need once in a while.

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