Orquesta Tropikiimba brings the Caribbean to Fridays

Orquesta Tropikiimba

Charlottesville gets a tangy taste of authentic Afro-Cuban sound Friday night, as Orquesta Tropikiimba salsas into town. The orchestra, which totals up to seventeen members at times, brings a fresh squeezed twist into a traditional Cuban sound.

"High energy music accurately describes it," band director and singer Tony Ruiz says. "It's a variety of timba, merengue, but ninety-nine percent of it is salsa, Afro-Cuban."

For the local Charlottesville music connoisseur, the chance to see authentic Caribbean music is a fresh change from the Dave-centric music scene. With members hailing from various regional backgrounds, the tie that binds them together lies in their passion for salsa.

"We're a good mix of Latino guys with American cats," Ruiz says. "We all have salsa experience and a passion to play it right– you have to study it, you have to love it, you have to make it your passion."
Similar to jazz with its heart and soul vibe, the Afro-Cuban sound has evolved throughout the years. Originating in Cuba in styles such as rumba, son, and Latin jazz, modern Afro-cuban music– characterized in mainstream music with lively rhythms and accompanied by improvisational dancing– combines R&B, funk, jazz, and even pop sounds into traditional salsa arrangements.

Growing in international popularity spurred on by its prominence in Latin America, Cuba in particular, the Afro-Cuban sound merges traditional orchestra elements– piano, violin, cello– with jazz instruments– trombone, saxophone– and classic Latin American instruments such as the Cuban guitar, campana coro, guiro, and bongos.

"Cubans have a huge jazz influence in their music," Ruiz says. "They have an undeniably tasteful way of mixing styles. Cuba is the most massive island of music in the world."

No stranger to Charlottesville crowds, Tropikiimba returns to Fridays After Five after traveling up-and-down the East Coast and California. The orquesta recently toured in South Korea as part of the Morale Welfare Recreation (MWR) tour for Latinos in the military and is currently recording their third album. With a ten to twelve man core, Tropikiimba will bring to the Pavilion a variety of regional perspectives– members hail from Venezuela, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, and France.

"Charlottesville is always a lot of fun," Ruiz says. "At the first song, crowds will get up and start dancing."

With the promise of an energetic, passionate show, Charlottesville music aficionados can look forward to a modern mix of traditional Afro-Cuban songs with original arrangements. Orquesta Tropikiimba brings to Charlottesville a splash of Caribbean salsa sound.

Orquesta Tropikiimba performs at Fridays After Five on August 8. Veneno De Tierra opens.