Filmore Miami Beach, August 20
Concert Review for Songlines Magazine
by Maria Bakkalapulo
Afro-Cuban hip-hop pioneers, the Orishas, are back on tour after a seven year hiatus. Welcoming them were 2,500 Latino fans, filling Miami’s The Filmore Theater in the South Beach neighborhood. Springing from their seats at first sight of the trio, their hands in the air, dancing and singing along, the atmosphere was of a family reunited. Roldán González Rivero, Hiram Riverí Medina (better known as Ruzzo) and Yotuel Omar Romero Manzanares now live outside of Cuba, but have made frequent trips back, bridging traditional and urban music scenes in Cuba, with the diaspora in the US. Their merging of rap and traditional rhythms was beautifully displayed in their fresh and melodic rendition of Buena Vista’s Chan Chan. The Miami crowd connected to nostalgia for their homeland, especially rendering the new single “Cuba, Isla Bella,” which serenaded them with the lyrics “My soul needs transfusion / Blood of my land / Back to the crib where I was born.” The Orishas have always touched the heart of the working class Cuban, evoking rural life on the island, from working on a sugar cane field, to thorny issues of racism and prostitution. Rappers Ruzzo and Yotuel used their rapid-fire delivery to create layers for Roldán (playfully referred to as the “Cuban George Clooney”) to lead in the role of ‘sonero’. Backed by violin, brass section, guitar, bass, percussionist and electronics, the Orishas ran a video backdrop of stunning original artwork and scenes from Cuba, and culminated in a more intimate ‘acoustic set’ at the very front of the stage. After their US tour, they will head to Cuba to produce their next album with Cuban musicians due out in 2017.