A New Voice in Mariachi-
Una Nueva Voz en Mariachi

To the Latin Beat

Queen of Parties in a Party Town -
Reina de las Fiestas en una Ciudad Fiestera

Picking the Perfect Dress -
Escogiendo el Traje de Novia Perfecto


Timo Nunez

Santa Barbara

News, Education,
Art, Horoscopes,
and Much More...
Noticias, Educacion,
Arte, Horoscopos,
y Mucho Mas...


To the Latin Beat
By Isabelle Gullo

From tango and salsa dancers to flamenco and folk musicians, Santa Barbara is home to an impressive pool of talented performers. Tinta Latina talks to five local entertainers who—Hispanic or not—share a passion for the roots and rhythms of Latin music.

Berto Flamenco
Fiery and expressive, the music of Santa Barbara's own flamenco guitarist and composer Robert Boyd, or "Bertochico," transports listeners to Andalusia, Spain. The artist began his musical training at age six and has played the guitar for more than 19 years. "I started with classical guitar as a teenager when piano wasn't cool anymore," he says.

Boyd discovered flamenco at a concert with Javier Barón at the Livery Theatre in 1994 and immediately switched his studies from classical to flamenco. Shortly thereafter he traveled to Spain only to find what he had sensed back home: flamenco music was his life calling. "I traveled around southern Spain, picking up flamenco as I went, playing at fiestas until 5 a.m. Experiencing Spanish culture like this was a life-altering experience for me," he reveals.

Since then, Boyd has studied with such Spanish masters as José Luis Rodriguez and Gerardo Nuñez. He is the featured solo artist at the Bacara Resort & Spa and also performs at private parties, having entertained for the likes of Barbara Streisand and Diane Lane. Additionally, he's composing music for a second CD as well as for his music and dance company, Arte y Pasión.

Normally one of Fiesta's most popular acts, Boyd is taking this year off to go perform alongside José Luis Rodriguez and Bailes Ferrer in Miami. "I'm sad to miss Fiesta, but playing with José Luis is a big honor." To find out about upcoming concerts, visit http://www.bertoflamenco.com/.

Somos Son
It's impossible to sit still when listening to Somos Son, Santa Barbara's own Cuban house band. The nine-piece group, whose name translates to "We are Son," has enchanted dancers and music-lovers at Soho, Ruby's and several major festivals for the past decade. "Our music is so danceable," allows Karl Schiffmann, the band's pianist and composer. "The rhythms are uplifting and the harmonies sophisticated."

With son, the rhythmic cell, or "clave," is a two-bar measure pattern, compared to one bar in most music, including rock and jazz. This, says conga player Robert Clements, encourages more interplay and variation. "The clave is what gives the music the swing. Like they say, ‘Sin clave no hay Son.'"

All at once vibrant, sensual and soulful, the unmistakably Cuban beat inspires dancing from the heart. "Son is at the very root of Cuban music, and it's at the root of all salsa," explains Schiffmann, who's traveled to Cuba several times to study with great musicians such as Irakere's Chucho Valdes and Cesar "Pupi" Pedroso of Los Van Van.

While the band's repertoire includes original songs composed by Schiffmann, most pieces are covers of tunes by Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Buena Vista Social Club and many other arrangements of traditional Cuban classics, among them Irakere. A number of these songs are recorded on the group's first CD, to be released this summer. "It will include tunes we play at almost every gig, mixing salsa, cha-cha-cha, cumbia, bolero and son styles," says Schiffmann, who reveals there's already talk of producing another CD with more original material.

Whatever the future brings, members are happy with the band's accomplishments so far. "I'm proud that we've been able to create a salsa band in Santa Barbara and keep it together and perform for a decade," says trumpet player Barry Nitikman. Don't miss Somos Son at the MultiCultural Festival August 20. For more information, visit: http://www.somosson.com/.

Joshua James Faulkner
may not be Latino, but he sure knows Latin dance. From salsa to rumba to cha-cha-cha, the dance instructor and performer is known for his smooth, graceful style and moves infused with the spontaneity of hip hop and Cuban rhythms. "Latin dance has a sense of etiquette and class," says Faulkner, "and yet you're free to apply your own style."

Faulkner started dancing nine years ago at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Portland, Oregon, his native town. After a few years of teaching ballroom, swing and Latin dance, he got involved with a Portland performing group, Sabor Latino, with whom he traveled to Italy, France, Spain and China. "Dancing really opened my eyes to the world," Faulkner reveals.

In 2002, the salsero came to Santa Barbara, where he spends his time performing and inspiring dance students of all ages through his business, Taste of Rhythm (http://www.tasteofrhythm.com/). He teaches private and group classes at Santa Barbara Dance Studio on Ortega Street as well as at UCSB and Santa Barbara Junior High. "I love teaching as much as I love dancing," says Faulkner. "I've seen many times how dancing can change a person's life."

Tango Santa Barbara
"It begins with the music," says Argentinean-born Fay Villanueva of Tango Santa Barbara when asked what it is she loves the most about tango. "The richness and beauty of the lyrical expression is incredible." She adds, "Because there are so many composers and orchestras of the great tango era, there is an equal amount of styles from each period open to study, not to mention the wave of tango interpretation that ‘techno-tango' has brought."

For the past 15 years, Villanueva and her partner, Brian Griffin, have kept tango alive in Santa Barbara through teaching and performing at venues like the French Festival, Multicultural Dance and Music Festival and Dancer's Ball. Most recently, the duo enticed audiences at the annual BASSH at the Lobero Theater. The couple teaches classes privately, at UCSB and Café Buenos Aires and through the City Parks and Recreation Department's Adult Dance program.

Over the years, Villanueva and Griffin have built a solid partnership on and off the dance floor. "Brian is the main instructor and I work primarily with women's technique since a woman's needs differ distinctly from those of men leaders," explains Villanueva, noting that the two still train with top tango maestros. "Simply said: Brian is the head of Tango Santa Barbara and I'm the heart." Visit http://www.tangosantabarbara.com/ for more information.

Cascada de Flores
Celebrating the rich musical heritage of Cuba and Mexico, folk music group Cascada de Flores performs for audiences across America and south of the border. The talented quartet divides its time between the Bay Area and Santa Barbara, having entertained locally at Soho, the Unitarian Congregation Hall, Casa de María, Reds Café and Coach House. "We get the best of both worlds: the diversity of the cosmopolitan, and the depth of community as we find in Santa Barbara," says the band's flautist and dancer Sabra Weber, who lives in town.

Cascada de Flores first started playing together in 1999. Passion for songs and traditional dance music of Mexico and Cuba inspired the band's repertoire, which consists of Mexican country music (ranchera and son), Mexican and Cuban canción (song) as well as bolero and Cuban son. "It's a weave of traditional and popular sounds that continues to inspire our existence," Weber notes. "We love to make connections between the songs and their roots, as well as connections with music of the United States. Yet, it's our love of older, or traditional, music and its original contexts that communicates so well with our audiences."

Band members also enjoy passing on what they learn to audiences of all ages, performing at schools, libraries and centers throughout California. "It began as a showcase of the variety of Mexican music and dance and somehow turned into a story that also touches upon that old Mexican humor that many people here haven't had the privilege to experience," says Weber. "Once a girl at an elementary school in Vallejo came up after the show and said ‘Now I'm glad I'm Mexican.' That was a wonderful moment."

A Cascada de Flores show in Santa Barbara is in the works for Sunday, July 23. Check out http://www.cascadadeflores.com/ for venue updates.