SM PIER — Tonight’s Twilight Dance Series brings the international music stage to Santa Monica with one band combining reggae beats and salsa flavor, the other brining together Afro-Cuban rhythms.
“Our music is a fusion of Cuban music, Cuban rhythms, Cuban style and central African music,” said Ricardo Lemvo, who will perform later in the evening. “I’ve loved this music since I was a child. It’s fun music. It’s very infectious, good to dance to.”
Before Lemvo takes the stage, Sergent Garcia and his band will perform their unique blend of sounds known as “salsamuffin.”
Garcia was born Bruno Garcia to a Spanish father and French mother and sings in both languages as well as English.
He developed an interest in reggae at a young age when he discovered raggamuffin, a sub-genre of dancehall reggae that improvises raps over music. Adding Latin and African music styles on top of raggamuffin is how he generated what he today calls “salsamuffin.”
Garcia’s band hails from all over the world and brings the sounds of congas, timbales, drums, piano, saxophone, trumpet and trombone to the mix.
Lemvo also draws influence from the mother continent and his music is rooted in African Diaspora. His style combines the Cuban music of his youth and Central African sounds from his Congolese origins.
Born in Angola to Congolese parents, his family moved to the Congo when he was young. It was there that he discovered the Cuban beats that were gaining popularity in Africa. At age 16 he moved again, this time joining his father in the United States and settling in Los Angels.
“Los Angeles is my home. This is where I’ve created this music,” Lemvo said of the Afro-Cuban blend he is known for today.
In 1990 he started the band Makina Loca, bringing together the diverse musical influences of the Cuban rumba, soukous and Angolan semba and kizomba.
“When I formed this band here in L.A. in 1990, it was with the goal of creating a fusion of Central African music and Cuban music,” he said. “It’s the music I listened to when I was a child.”
Makina Loca now consists of 11 members along with Lemvo, who contribute their own musical and cultural influences — members come from Cuban, Guatemalan, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Spanish and Russian backgrounds — to the band’s international flavor.
The multicultural band helps Lemvo create his unique salsa sounds, but he said this is not what he first looks for in new members.
“Well talent is the most important thing. If the talent’s there and they have a good attitude, they can join the band,” he said. “I like to look for team players, someone who can work well with everyone else.”
Though Los Angeles is the band’s home base, they can be found traveling throughout Europe, Africa, South America and Australia.
Lemvo has released five CDs that include hits such as “Mambo Yo Yo” and “Tata Masamba.”
Tonight’s performance marks the release of his newest album, “Retrospectiva,” out July 21, which will serve as a greatest hit’s album for the band’s nearly 20 years together, remixing many of their biggest hits.
“I decided to release [these songs] but with different arrangements, just to make it more fun,” he said.
Fun is what Lemvo’s infectious music is all about, encouraging the audience to join and become a part of what was once his childhood aspiration.
“I’m living my dream,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”