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The crowd—about 250-300 strong—went wild on Sunday night, Dec. 6, during Accion Latina’s 34th annual Encuentro Del Canto Popular concert.
Inspired by President Obama’s groundbreaking decision to improve political relations between Cuba and the United States, the incredibly well received line up of musicians—including 5-time Grammy nominee John Santos— brought life and energy to The Chapel on Valencia Street. The musicians swept the crowd, in a Latin and Cuban salsa dancing night to remember.
The night kicked off with Bay Area-based group Soltrón. The 10-piece ensemble set the pace with high energy that would move the crowds for the rest of the night. Soltrón’s diverse instrument selection included a wind controller, an electronic flute-like instrument, which added to their unique Latin/Chicano/electronic fusion. Female vocalist, ‘Adrianimal’ (Adriana Marrero), urged the crowd to get closer to the stage, and the crowd followed. Leaving their inhibitions behind, the crowd danced their way closer to the stage, until there was virtually no gap between them and the performers.
Following Soltrón, Brooklyn’s La Mecánica Popular performed a hybrid of Cuban salsa and experimental electronic sounds, which seemed to turn everyone in to a professional dancer. The space filled with elaborate dance moves resembling those of choreographed dances. Four dancers switched partners and danced in unison, spinning and striking funny poses.
When asked how long they had been dancing together, one of the dancers, Daniela Funes, a Cuban salsa dance teacher at SalSanFran at SF State, said, “We just met tonight.”
Funes explained that by knowing the basic steps of salsa and having a person lead the group, one could dance with anyone.
“Salsa is addicting,” Funes said. “[It] will change your life. You can find a place to go dancing every night.”
For the main act of the night, the John Santos Sextet and their special guest from Mexico, Jose Roberto Hernandez, hit the stage. With the San Francisco-born Santos on percussion and vocals, the band kept the crowds fired up and ready for more with drum-heavy Afro-Cuban jazz.
“I want to see young people dancing right here,” said Santos in the midst of a song, pointing to the floor in front of him, in what seemed an attempt to remind the youth to keep their culture alive. Encouraged, dancers let the music sweep them away as they practiced their bravest moves.
After a few songs, Santos invited the entire ensemble of Soltrón back to the stage for an improvised jam. Soltrón’s lead guitarist ‘Mongolius Seizure’ (Manolo Davila) came on to the stage and asked for an instrument, a single maraca. Others picked up percussion instruments and began collaborating, insisting that everyone participate. By the end of the night—aside from a few observers—the music had the entire floor filled with patrons, dancing confidently regardless of skill.