Music: Afro-Cuban

Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca blend salsa and soukous

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Born in Angola and raised in the Congo, Ricardo Lemvo was influenced by the music played in local clubs and bars—driving beats from Cuba, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. Photo by Ernesto Huerta.

By Lily O’Brien

Although ‘multicultural’ is a controversial term in the current political climate in this country, in the world of music, it’s a celebrated one. The multi-rhythmic, exuberant Afro-Cuban dance music created by renowned African singer Ricardo Lemvo embodies it.

“The music is actually a blend of Cuban and salsa, and soukous, semba and kizomba—mainly from Angola and the Congo,” Lemvo says by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I blend all those rhythms to create what my band plays.”

He and his six-piece band, Makina Loca (piano, guitar, bass drums, congas and two trumpets), will be performing on Saturday, July 29 under the stars at the Osher Marin JCC—part of its 25th Annual Summer Nights Festival.

Lemvo composes 90 percent of the songs for the band, but he never went to music school and does not read or write music—he does everything by ear. The songs are sung in a rich mix of languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, various African dialects and even Turkish. “The one thing I like to do, regardless of the content of the songs, is to keep the music upbeat,” he says, “because sometimes the story is a sad story, but the music is always deceptively joyous.”

In 1998, Lemvo got signed by Putumayo World Music and started touring extensively both nationally and internationally; he’s currently making a new CD. “This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” he says. “I’m having fun. It’s work, but it’s fun work.”

Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca, Sat., July 29, Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Rd., San Rafael; 7pm; $22-$30; 415/444-8000; marinjcc.org.

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