By: Dyondra Wilson
Palm trees and vintage Havana-themed decor mapped out the room as Cuban spices and music filled the air. Customers of varying ages and ethnicities sang and danced to JuanMa Morales latin band, Sonido Costeno.
Havana Central, a Cuban-oriented restaurant chain, served up live salsa and Latin music Saturday night at Roosevelt Field Mall. The high energy band gave customers an authentic latin performance.
“When you play professionally you compromise yourself to commercial venues that pay your bills, but still you bring the culture,” JuanMa Morale, lead singer, and band director, said. In Puerto Rico, he grew up amongst the music he sings today. “As musicians, we try to enhance the art to bring something new to the table. This is how you keep the band alive.”
Live music and social events like this brings people within the community a place to listen and experience Latin culture first hand.
“I think, for the community, it really helps a lot,” Havana Central’s general manager, Michael Bharath, said. “When you see a live band like this and the music is so authentic and so genuine, people really connect to it because there’s a story behind the songs.”
Many customers at the restaurant rose from their seats to sing and dance with the band as they made special requests for birthdays.
“Authentic Latin music, the live music itself has a pulse, it speaks to you,” Selena Santana, a Havana Central customer, planned to see Sonido Costeno live for her husband’s birthday.
Salsa originated in Cuba and has been around since the 1950’s. The dance exists in many styles but all are based on counts of four beats. This sensual, fluid rhythm makes up a melting pot of dances within the Latin American community from Colombia to Peru.
“Our music is more lively and has more feelings,” Aldo Cabrera, a latino worker at Havana Central, said. “We put a lot of emotions and feelings into the songs.”
“Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen that people travel from near and far to join us for our new addition of Latin Pulse Thursdays. This ranges from the east end of Long Island to Queens,” Mesita worker, Jessica Matarese, said. “Salsa and Bachata lessons have added a lively, fun and exciting atmosphere to our Thursday nights.”
Latin music saw a 73 percent growth in streamers in 2015 and grew by 13.6 percent in 2016, according to Nielsen music. Experiencing a $1.5 trillion increase in buying power in sports, brands, and franchises, looking to gain bilingual and bicultural fans.
“Salsa has excitement all on its own. In the dance itself is a lot more creativity.” Mary Piazza, a dance instructor for over forty years at LI Dance, said. “It’s the magic trio when you have music, dancing and a partner in your arms.”
Latin dance schools on Long Island are few but in Nassau County over 30 people a month come out to Salsa Sensations weekly Friday night salsa social nights.
“I’ve been going for four years,” attendee, Carlos Etuardo travels from Suffolk to Nassau county to Salsa Sensation which ranks almost five stars amongst similar dance studios that incorporate latin music. “I just like to dance.”
Salsa Sensation will hold new dance classes in both Salsa and Bachata, starting May 9th.
“It brings people out and you get to socialize and meet new people.” Dayanira Feliciano, Salsa Sensation’s receptionist, said.
Havana Central hosts live Latin music events every weekend and Sonido Costeno will perform May 20th at the Bronx Learning Center and August 20th at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Members Gala.