Tuesday, September 11, 2012

El Clan Destino Rides Again!

by Susan Kepecs
Look out, Madison, El Clan Destino is back!  This brainy, muscular Afro-Latin quartet, which kicked off way back in the fall of 2003, is one of my favorite bands.  The outfit features some of Mad City’s most versatile players.  You know them – Nick Moran on bass, Vince Fuh on keys, Frank Martínez on drums, and Yorel Lashley on percussion and vocals. But for a while, Clan Destino was like a ghost – barely visible around town. “Honestly, in the last five years or so I didn't know if El Clan Destino would survive,” says Moran. “I thought we were reaching the end.”
That’s because  the band’s first conguero, Jamie Ryan, took a teaching job and moved out of town, and Martínez, who just got married, almost split the city as well. Luckily, Lashley’s on board now and Martínez decided to stick around.  So here’s the good news: you can catch them at the next two Friday Happy Hours at the Cardinal Bar, 418 E. Wilson – 5-7 pm this week (Sept. 14), and again on Sept. 21.  
Clan Destino stands out for its adventurous spirit.  Playing rock and roll with the five-note, two-bar Afro-Cuban clave beat is one of its specialties.  Though band members write most of the repertory, from the beginning, Jeff Beck’s “Led Boots,” an obsession of Fuh’s, has been a staple – done Cuban songo style.  In an interview I did with them years ago, Martínez told me “we put out hip-hop funk lines, but totally in clave.  We could do a polka-bembé.”
“We’re still coming up with stylistic mashups,” Moran says. “No polka-bembés in the mix yet!  But I've done some arrangements of Los Lobos tunes, Sierra Maestra and Cachao classics, taking the core idea of the tune but updating it to our format. We’ve also arranged classic rumbas and traditional calls to the Orishas. We've taken these rhythms and vocal lines and created new harmonies and combined them with elements of rock, funk, jazz and hip hop.”
Sometimes, says Moran, audiences don’t get it.  You see, we've always rebelled against the notion that “Latin music” should be a certain way: a predictable couples dance music that strives for that “authentic” Latin sound. That notion of rebellion has always been at the core of what we do. Sometimes we encounter a crowd that comes in with a preconceived notion of what a
“Latin” band should sound like. We take great pride in musically destroying that notion.”
If you love Latin music and you’re a rebel, I’ll see you at the Cardinal this Friday and next.  This week the band performs as a trio, minus Lashley, who’ll be out of town.  The trio performance will be a throwback to our earlier days as a hard hitting Latin jazz outfit,” Moran says.  “The second show will feature the full band, which will allow us to focus on the more Afro-Cuban repertoire as well as some newer material. So one could come to both shows and hear different music each time.”

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