Los Perros Cubanos bringing Cuban music to Kenosha

By Bill Robbins
brobbins@kenoshanews.com

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If you go

What: A performance by Los Perros Cubanos. Also, two members of the Milwaukee-based band Twang Dragons will perform an opening acoustic set.

Where: The Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St.

When: Saturday (March 16). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Admission: $10. This is an all-ages concert. Alcohol will be available to those with IDs.

More information: Visit www.rhodecenter.org

A balmy Caribbean breeze will blow into the Rhode Center for the Arts on Saturday (March 16) when Los Perros Cubanos performs a high-energy show filled with salsa and cha-cha as well as other musical forms.

The show is part of the Rhode’s Rebuilder Concert Series.

The Highland Park, Ill.-based band features six members playing instruments including electric, acoustic and lap-steel guitar, timbales and congas.

We asked Roger Sosa, the band’s leader and a first-generation Cuban-American, some questions via email. Sosa plays acoustic guitar and sings.

Question: How and when did the band come together?

Answer: The band came together in 2009 as an outgrowth of my previous band, Blue Fog.

Blue Fog was a blues-rock act that (fellow Cubanos band member) John Manos and I played in for 10 years.

We were searching for a new direction, and I had always wanted to do more with Cuban music, since I grew up listening to it as a kid and kind of came back to it later in life.

So we started small with just an acoustic act and found great musicians who shared our vision of creating music that we call “Cubano fusion.”

Question: What is your background as a musician?

Answer: I started playing piano at age 7 and picked up guitar and trombone along the way. Actually, for a while trombone was my best instrument, but I really haven’t played it since high school.

Guitar took over, and I have played in a number of bands over the years in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

I grew up a Cuban kid in southern Illinois, so while I heard lots of Cuban music at home, I also grew up listening to rock, blues, country —you name it.

My musical taste is all over the map. I like everything from Nat King Cole to Frank Zappa. One of the things we try to do in the band is to fuse those influences with the traditional music to create something both new and familiar at the same time.

Question: Describe the band’s music.

Answer: Los Perros Cubanos features the music of Cuba’s Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s blended with rock, jazz, soul and blues influences to create Cubano fusion — a totally unique sound.

Since its inception, the band has become one of the Midwest’s hottest Latin acts. We combine the traditional Cuban music styles of Son Cubano, salsa, cha cha, and charanga with modern instrumental prowess to produce a captivating sound that moves your feet.

For example, on a song like “Como Fue,” we add lap-steel guitar, which is not a traditional Cuban instrument. It gives the song a bit of a country feel and adds the feeling of longing of the original song.

On “Cuarto de Tula,” we substitute dueling guitars for horns but still get the same “jam like the building is on fire” feel.

Question: You are a first-generation Cuban-American. So this music must be very personal for you. Please elaborate.

Answer: Very personal. One of the motivating factors for forming the band for me was the passing of my aunt and uncle, who had both been very encouraging to me about my music and always wanted me to learn more Cuban songs.

My parents have been very supportive also in that they are always suggesting musicians and songs that I haven’t heard before.

I remember taking trips with my family and listening to Orquesta Aragon and Beny More on my dad’s eight-track tapes.

I also remember seeing the cover of Perez Prado’s “Havana 3 a.m.” since my dad had it on the turntable a lot. So, this music is very personal and brings back strong memories for me.

Question: “Perros” translates to “dogs” in English. So you are the Cuban Dogs?

Answer: Yes, we are. There is a joke that is the origin of the name — but the punch line is that the Cuban dog gets the girls! So, we are the Cuban Dogs.

Question: Do you ever travel back to Cuba?

Answer: I have not been back to Cuba as an adult, but was baptized there in 1958 — on Dec. 31, the day before Fidel Castro took over from Batista.

My parents were already living here, but wanted me baptized there. We got out on one of the last planes that afternoon after they had me baptized. Life is a game of inches.

Question: Please add any other comments you’d like to make.

Answer: We hope folks come out to have a good time on March 16. We are very excited to bring our music to Kenosha. We hope to see all our Wisconsin friends.

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