Atlanta's Havana Son brings Latin rhythms to Street Music

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comJune 6, 2012 

Atlanta musicians Havana Son play a range of Latin rhythms and will stop by Port Royal on June 9.

SPECIAL TO LOWCOUNTRY CURRENT

  • Havana Son plays at 6:30 p.m. June 9 at Street Music on Paris Avenue in Port Royal. Admission is free. Details: www.artworksinbeaufort.org

Look away for a few moments and the band on stage sounds like a nine-piece band -- blazing horns, guitars, complex percussion rhythms. But turn back and Havana Son reveals itself as just a trio.

The Atlanta musicians play Street Music on Paris Avenue on June 9 in Port Royal. Led by couple Llilian and Rene Herrera, Havana Son plays the range of Latin rhythms from Salsa to Merengue to Cha Cha.

"We worked to make Latin music accessible to everyone," Llilian Herrera said.

A love for Latin culture and music brought the couple together. They both have extensive musical training. Llilian, who's of Cuban heritage, studied opera music at Boston University. Rene played trombone with the Cuban Symphony Orchestra.

They met 10 years ago. Rene was playing for a Latin band called Bio Ritmo when Llilian's group was an opening act. Before long, Llilian had joined Bio Ritmo and the couple was soon married. They eventually parted with the ensemble to form their own group.

The Herreras relocated to Atlanta and started a nine-piece group. But they began to break down to just two or three musicians depending on the gig. Soon, they found that they were getting more requests for just the two of them. Before long, the duo stuck and the nine-piece group went to the wayside.

However, they still sought a way to duplicate that large band sound. When they travel as Havana Son now, it's usually as a trio, with a percussionist in tow. The Herreras both sing and play instruments. The horns heard actually are a recording of Rene playing in his Atlanta studio.

"We found a way to have a full Salsa band with just the three of us," Llilian said.

They mainly travel Georgia and the Carolinas for shows. A good portion of their work comes through school programs, where they take children on a musical tour of Latin America. They find a growing appreciation for Latin music as the Hispanic population swells in the country. But some of the subtle difference among the different styles of music might still be unfamiliar.

"We're opening doors to cultures many people may not be very aware of," Llilian said.

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