Singers, Dancers, and Musicians

Latin people are historically known as incredible dancers, singers, and musicians along with possessing many other both positive and negative traits.  For the purposes of this BLOG entry, we’ll focus solely on the dancing, singing and musical aspect of this wonderful culture. A proper disclaimer at this point would be that I was born in South America and lived there until my family moved to The States when I was 8.  My Father, a true Catalonian, was from Spain; my Mother a mixture of American, Irish & Trinidadian.  Together they created the melting pot that I am today.

My earliest recollection of a Latin musician comes in the form of old re-runs of “I Love Lucy” where invariably Ricky (played by Desi Arnaz) would utter the line…”Lucy, jew have a lot esplainin’ to do!”  As my musical horizons expanded and I grew, I became exposed to other Latin talents as Jose Feliciano, Santana, Julio Iglesias, and “El Puma”.  More contemporary and certainly readily recognizable Latin artists include Selena, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira and Marc Anthony. 

In all honesty I am the farthest thing from a typical Latin male.  Growing up in the good ol’ US of A, my musical taste leans towards AC/DC, Journey, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffett and the occasional Billy Joel.  Regardless, you would think being the melting pot that I am, I would have inherited some kind of musical genius from my Latin ancestors.  Never mind the genius, I would have settled with some simple musical talent.  The ability to carry a tune, is that too much to ask?  So since step 1 of any 12 step program is honesty, I humble myself and admit that I have absolutely no musical talent what-so-ever.  I don’t sing, I don’t dance, and I don’t play a musical instrument.  The extent of my musical “genius” is downloading a song from the internet and burning it on a CD to joyfully play in my car at a later time.  Life can be so cruel.

Back in October of 2010, a new neighborhood spot opened up called AWA NA KAVA (in the heart of Fort Lauderdale) From the rumor-ville I hear this awesome little town Kava Bar will be reviewed on shortly!  Yet, as always….I digress.  Awa Na Kava started hosting open mic nights on Sundays and as a faithful and loyal patron I was and am privileged to witness music magic happen every Sunday by relative amateurs combined with semi-professionals. 

Indulge me for a brief moment and go back to the 5th grade with me. Enrolled at American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida I guess my Latin roots came-a-calling.  I joined the middle school band and decided I was going to play the trumpet.   On my second day I realized that the instrument that was going to make me famous was clearly a lot more difficult than I had originally thought.  On the night of our first band concert I was completely unprepared, didn’t know the music, couldn’t play the notes, hadn’t practiced but did an amazing job of simulating and pretending to play along with the rest of the orchestra while not a single note emerged out of my horn. My trumpet playing pantomime was so convincing that at the end of the evening’s performance my parents, with gleaming and proud eyes, told me I had done a wonderful job and could clearly see a future for me in the brass section of any renowned orchestra. This night would prove to be the first of many performances where my acting skills would certainly outshine my musical talents. 

The trumpet was quickly given up, followed by brief attempts at the drums, percussion, and the saxophone.  All of my musical instrument attempts had the same result; utter frustration, lack of dedication, discipline & practice and eventual surrender.  Yet my musical endeavors weren’t over…….oh no… was in my blood!

The whole instrument thing wasn’t working, but in order to honor my heritage I had to continue on my music quest.  A moment of brilliance came to me and I decided to trade the orchestra for the CHORUS.  It was 7th grade and I was ready to sing!  Tenor, soprano, bass, it really didn’t matter.  I just wanted to be a star!  (My selfishness and self-seeking started at a very early age.)  Long story short, I was asked not to come back the following year for various reasons.  The chorus would not be an option for me as I was not welcomed.  Acting would come next, but that is subject for another post.  By this time, at the tender age of 13 or 14 my musical career was over.  I couldn’t help but feel like I had let my ancestors down.  That “musical” gene seemed to skip me and left me with a musically deaf ear, no talent, let alone any ability.

When open mic started at Awa Na Kava I was somewhat hesitant and unsure as to what to expect.  Of course I was biased in my own abilities, or lack thereof, and figured that listening to a group of people playing instruments and singing, who had never practiced or played together, could not end well.  I was astonished at the incredible results I witnessed.

Truthfully, the first few attempts were not the greatest, but as simply a bystander the fact that I could actually recognize a song that was being played amazed me.  I saw one guy play acoustic guitar rather well, then sing, then hop on the drums and masterfully play with incredible ease.  I was truly impressed.  As the “Sunday Night Jams” continued this group of musicians became increasingly more synchronized and amazingly good.  Every Sunday I sat at my usual stool and watched with great admiration as this talented group of individuals played some great music together.    

Based on my limited and what could be called “traumatic” musical experience in my early days, I sit in awe and watch these guys make magic together.  I certainly do not intend to sound melodramatic when I say “magic” but the knowledge, dedication, and talent I witness is inspiring.  I witness not only solid musical abilities but also a passion and enjoyment rarely seen in other venues.  These individuals perform not for fame or money, not for recognition or star status but simply for the pure enjoyment and love for the art.  I have been present when there were only two patrons present and these men played with as much heart and passion to rival any Pop-Star playing a sold out arena.

I am truly blessed.  I am part of a group of people who on a weekly basis get a chance to express their creativity, share their talent and inspire people like myself.  I consider myself part of this group because although I don’t sing, dance or play, I can sit back and admire these men for what they are…..true artists.  With an eclectic group of people, other talents have emerged as well.  We have photographers, videographers, t-shirt artists and producers to name a few.  Such is the talent present during these Sunday Night Jam Sessions, that two members of the group have collaborated and have produced, performed, recorded and published a song now available on ITunes. (Search for WoCo, Planet Pretty Girl)    

If you are ever in the Fort Lauderdale area, I encourage you to visit Awa Na Kava, located on the SW Corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and Bayview Drive near the beach.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday 6pm until 2am.  Open mic nights are every Sunday, Open Karaoke on Wednesdays. I’ll be the guy sitting on the stool watching with awe and amazement. Hope to see you there!

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