Juan Formell y LOS VAN VAN
Cuba’s musical bullet train brings non-stop dance energy to Japan!
Los Van Van, giants of Cuban popular music for more than 50 years, bring their intoxicating Latin rhythms to Japan for the first time in 13 years this summer.
Loosely translated as The Go Gos, the Grammy-winning band continues to set the standard for infusing dance music from Havana with a fresh relevance and identity that stretches far beyond the labels of Cuban salsa or timba.
The 16-member group, known as El Tren (The Train) in Cuba, is a locomotive of irresistible dance grooves for the body and a source of social commentary for the mind that makes the music an essential part of everyday life on the Caribbean island, rather than a distraction from it.
The Los Van Van sound remains as distinctive as ever, even after generational changes in styles and personnel, offering an example for salsa bands across the globe of how to evolve a contemporary style while maintaining an identity that avoids cliches.
Since the last appearance in Japan, hard-hitting drummer Samuel Formell has become the full driving force of the band following the passing away of his father, founder Juan Formell. He’s reinvigorated the Formell formula by bringing on board sister Vanessa as the feisty female voice in the band and brother Juan-Carlos, a Grammy-nominated guitarist in his own right, to fill the key role as bassist. The latest lineup brings in new blood to power the trombone and violin sections, and put a new twist on the band’s mesmerizing keyboard riffs. Julio Noroña on guiro flies the flag for the original members that formed the group in 1969.
Recent releases forge a path of fresh compositions, new collaborations and reworkings of classic hits as Formell looks to stretch the possibilities of Los Van Van’s sound while never forgetting the rich heritage of its back catalogue. While experimenting on one-off tracks with timba and urban pop outfits, the band’s most impactful full-length releases in recent years are its heavy-hitting “Leyenda” tribute to the deceased Formell and its 50th year anniversary collection “Mi Songo,” featuring re-energized cuts of “Sandunguera,” “Anda, Ven Y Muevete” and “El Baile del Buey Cansao.”
After three years of pandemic-tinged self-restraint, the time has come to leave some sweat and stress on the dancefloor this summer.