When my family came from Cuba in 1969 (I was 9 years old) we spent a couple of years living on Yukon Avenue near the intersection of Century Blvd, across from the famous Hollywood Race Track complex. So it was bitter sweet on Friday to head out to the Hollywood Park Casino to see the Cubaton (Cuban style reggaeton) group Gente de Zona (slang for the people from the neighborhood) and be back visiting my old hood.
At the Latin Grammys held the previous night, the group had won 3 Latin Grammys (Song of the year, Urban performance & Urban song) for the international hit “Bailando (dancing)” featuring Spanish pop star Enrique Iglesias and Cuban singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno which whom they collaborated on writing the song.
Flying all the way from Paris, France where they have been on tour with Iglesias, the duo of Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom (former singer for the Timba group Charanga Habanera) took the stage around midnight to an enthusiastic crowd of mostly Cuban-Americans of several hundreds. Backed up by an outstanding band of very young musicians which included 3 trumpet players, conga drum, drums and two keyboard they began with an explosive rendition of “Ella Lo Baila Pegao (she dances it very close).
To label Gente De Zona a Reggeaton/Cubaton group is a bit misleading because their current presentations, arrangements and songs are a fusion of several music genres including Dominican merenge, bachata along with the Cuban genres of son and timba along with flamenco, rap, hip hop, jazz and pop.
The evolution of Gente De Zona has been going strong since it was started by Delgado back in 2000 and it is his energy and powerful baritone voice that soars over the music and gives it its flavor like a fine aged wine. His voice timbre reminded me of Roldán González of the group Orishas, another great voice of Cuban hip hop/rap.
During the evening Alexander acknowledged many of the countries represented in the audience but especially gave several shout outs to the Cubans in the audience, especially with the hit “El Habanero (the one from Havana)”. This song talks about the life of artist with a clever chorus of “Nacì en la Habana, Soy habanero, Muchas mujeres, Poco dinero (I was born in Havana, I’m a Havanan, Lots of women, But little money”.
One of the highlights of the evening was the presence of Cuban Dodger or “Doyer” superstar, Yasiel Puig who was mobbed as his arrival by fans and took over 30 minutes to drag him away from signing autographs and posing for pictures. The evening could not end without the infectious and multi-award winning song “Bailando” which brought out anyone who was sitting down to their feet to do just that!
For all those in attendance it was a win-win situation at the Hollywood Park Casino (pun intended) with an evening full of Cuban stars from sports and music, and it was all done bailando!!