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Queens Theatre music fest offers deep Latin mix

Gregorio Uribe Big Band performs the opening act of Saturday evenings lineup at the Latino Cultural Festival at Queens Theatre. Photo by Diana Cabral
TimesLedger Newspapers

There was no shortage of variety at the Queens Theatre’s Latino Cultural Festival last weekend.

The headliners during the Saturday evening performance began with a lively mix of Afro-Cuban beats and a jazz standard, then came a reggage-infused Peruvian love song before the set ended with a song inspired by the glory of the Andes: “Warriors of the Sun.”

Corina Bartra was the musical magician skillfully spinning all of these diverse sounds into one global harmonious treat.

Barta, who divides her time between Forest Hills and Peru, was the opening act for Gregorio Uribe Big Band at the annual event.

Now in its 16th year, the festival had a different focus than in years past, said Willy Mosquera, program director of the festival.

“We wanted to serve as a platform for local artists,” he said.

It was a business decision as much as an artistic one, Mosquera said.

Faced with a shrinking budget and sour economy, the theater’s director, Ray Cullom, asked if it was worth having a Latino Festival. “‘I am a gringo, educate me,’ he said,” according to Mosquera. And he did. Mosquera came up with the idea of holding the four-day festival and reached out to local artists across the boroughs.

Mosquera’s aim was to celebrate the vast and eclectic Latino musical sound in New York City. Indeed the caliber and truly Pan-Latino and world sound of the night was evident in the three musical performances of the evening.

One such example is Gregorio Uribe’s 16-piece Big Band. Dressed in a light gray three-piece suit topped with a straw fedora, Uribe sang about enjoying life to the fullest in “Goza Cada Día,” or Enjoy Every Day. The cumbia rhythm was infectious and the big band sound gave the song a lively airy feeling that filled the 472-seat theater. Delightfuly, Uribe glided and danced barefoot onstage. A somber song about the ceremonial sacrifice of a child from Colombia’s indigenious past began slow and steady, then broke out into festive cumbia beats. Again his big band sound sounded top-notch.

As a true eclectic artist Uribe at one point asked the audience, “Didn’t you know that the Beatles wrote a cumbia?” With that, the music began and it became clear Uribe had deftly arranged “Come Together” into a high-energy, dynamic and original cumbia that delighted the audience.

Fang Lei, an music lover from Kew Gardens, enjoyed the melodic rhythms of Barta and Uribe, adding “music has no language, it’s universal.”

“I was just passing by and saw there was a concert tonight,” said Lei, “I am taking a music class at Queens College and was originally going to go to Lincoln Center.”

Meanwhile, in the intimate 90-seat Studio Theatre, the Villalobo Brothers play everything from traditional Mexican music to an Irish jig and classical favorites. The three brothers playing violins and backed-up by bass, drums and guitar were something of a musical gem; their onstage enthusiasm was contagious.

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Luis from Long Island City says:
Sound like it was a great event.
Aug. 27, 2012, 4:11 pm
Luis from Long Island City says:
Sounds like it was a great event.
Aug. 27, 2012, 4:11 pm

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