En Fuego Bringing Bliss  

The percussionist is without a doubt the most animated character on stage, and his energy leads the band and excites the crowd too. I see that Cuban Salsa is not just music that requires sweat from Salseros, but the band as well.


En Fuego (which means the fire) definitely brings the heat. They seem to have no restraint as they play their instruments, but there is so much control in their synchronization. The percussionist is excited throughout the two hours they play, expertly whipping the cymbals and beating the drums.

To his left the dreadlocked man on the bongos is as cool as the aircon, his palms lightly smacking the quinto. To his left on the end of the stage is a saxophone player, a trumpeter and a trombonist. Their sounds are blazing and even though I see them readying to play, I’m still surprised and thrilled by it every time.

On the other end the piano man has his head down, the sounds of the ebony and ivory keys are playful. On the right of the percussionist are two gents who take turns playing little hand held instruments. I’m told it’s a Maracos and the Clave, both producing a delightful knocking timbre.

I don’t understand what they singing but it’s enjoyable. The lady behind them vocals too, and is as sensual as she is soulful. The guy on the bass guitar is just there in the background, keeping a flowing tempo.

For me this music always sounds frenzied, but watching this band it made sense, and now, I appreciate Cuban Salsa more.

The Orbit was packed from wall to wall, the sounds of this Joburg based band had heads bopping, feet tapping and fingers snapping.

I spoke to both percussionists, yes there were two. Just before they started a tune one of their founding members (Thomas) walked in and was duly called on stage. In the audience, the man he replaced (Riaan) beamed as he watched this impromptu exhibition.

Both of them said that their passion for making music is the main reason they played Cuban Salsa, and wanting to make music that everyone enjoyed. So it’s not just for Cubans or Salseros, but people of all races. I mean the ensemble is made up of an American, an Ivorian, a Senegalese, and a Peruvian and of course South Africans.

And that’s one of the beauties of music, it surpasses race. The dancing brings us closer.

I’m in awe of this phenomenon, in Joburg, there’s a Nigerian dancing with an Australian, a Swazi dancing with a Mozambican, a Cuban with a Zulu, all to the tunes created on an island thousands of kilometres away from this city of glitter.

In the 1940’s, Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club was the bedrock for Salseros, until they were shut down in 1959 due to a revolution.

In the 90’s there was a recreation of the music played at the Buena Vista Social Club. This album – simply called Buena Vista Social Club, won a Grammy award and revived interest in Cuban Salsa. And the music that emanated from that era has a worldwide presence and a home right here in South Africa.

En Fuego proves that Cuban Salsa is universal and that dance (instead of ignorance) is bliss, so let the music play and continue uniting nations.

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