Afro-Cuban All Stars at Berklee

The Afro-Cuban All Stars is a 17-piece dream team of Cuba’s hottest musicians brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos Gonzáles (the musical arranger for the original Buena Vista Social Club recording). Paying tribute to Cuban music, this multigenerational lineup features members from Cuba’s leading bands, including Orquesta Tropicana, Los Van Van, Sierra Maestra and more.

Juan de Marcos Gonzáles was born in Havana in 1954 and grew up surrounded by music. At university, he studied hydraulic engineering and Russian before working as a consultant at the Agronomic Science Institute, gaining his doctorate in 1989. While at the university in 1978, he co-founded the group Sierra Maestra. Styled as a traditional Cuban septeto group (tres, trumpet, bass, percussion, and vocals), the dynamic young band revitalized traditional Cuban son music with the youth of the island. The band achieved great success, recording 14 albums in Cuba, touring Africa and Europe, and receiving numerous awards.

The start of the Afro-Cuban All Stars began in the 1990s, when Juan de Marcos Gonzáles was still leading Sierra Maestra. He had always dreamed of creating an album to celebrate the classic Cuban sounds of the 1950s and leveraged the success of Sierra Maestra to convince his record label, World Circuit, to make his dream a reality. Gonzáles sought out many great musicians, who are now revered worldwide including Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, and Rubén Gonzalez.

The day after the Afro-Cuban All Stars album was completed, Ry Cooder arrived in Havana to be greeted by this ensemble for the start of what was to become the Buena Vista Social Club. The Afro-Cuban All Stars album was the first to be recorded, and Gonzáles’ band provided both the springboard and many of the musicians for the legendary Buena Vista album that followed. In 1997, Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars toured all over Europe with a multi-generational band, their ages ranging from 19 to 90. Today, the band has enjoyed nearly two decades of tremendous success, including Grammy nominations, several award-winning documentary films, and other distinctions.

With the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Juan de Marcos has developed much more than a musical group, he has created an institution. He fluidly adjusts the orchestra’s line-up of musicians to best reflect contemporary, traditional and in essence, the future styles of Cuban music. The current line-up of Afro-Cuban All Stars consists of the finest Cuban expatriate musicians, all alumni of Cuba’s greatest bands. The Afro-Cuban All Stars tour is a band constantly telling the story of Cuban music to the rest of the world.

JUAN DE MARCOS & THE AFRO-CUBAN ALL STARS at the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday, May 8. Showtime is 7:30PM. Tickets $48, $42, $37, $30. For Tickets and Information call 617-876-4275 or online at www.WorldMusic.org

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