Weekender

Tiempo Libre to bring Cuban culture, music to Juniata College

Tiempo Libre is touring in support of its new album, “Panamericano.” The band’s seven members will perform Dec. 1 at Juniata College.
Tiempo Libre is touring in support of its new album, “Panamericano.” The band’s seven members will perform Dec. 1 at Juniata College. Photo provided

Seven musicians, all trained at conservatories in Cuba, will perform a mix of jazz harmonies, contemporary sonorities and seductive Latin rhythms when Tiempo Libre takes the stage at the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts.

“The most important thing is the energy and joy we transmit to the audience,” said Jorge Gomez, who plays piano in the band. “We want to see people sharing in the happiness we feel when we play. That means getting people to forget all their cares and inhibitions whether they are up and dancing or singing along from their seats.”

Tiempo Libre has been entertaining audiences across the globe since forming in Miami in 2001. The group is touring in support of its new album, “Panamericano,” which features the single “Dime Que No,” and “Somebody to Love Me,” which are in airplay on Latin music radio stations nationwide.

In addition, the band is coming off a five-week run of performing live every night in “Cuba Libre” at the Winningstad Theatre in Portland, Oregon. The musical is based on the lives of the members of Tiempo Libre and features 21 actors and musicians.

At Juniata College, the band will perform a variety of rhythms and genres, from traditional songs like “Guantanamera,” “El Cuarto de Tula,” “Son de la Loma” and “El Manicero” to timba, which is a fusion of the traditional with rock, jazz and Afro-Cuban elements.

“We will also be doing Latin jazz and something that not too many bands do, which is fusing classical music and Cuban music,” Gomez said. “So you’ll hear Bach’s ‘Fugue in C Minor’ as a Conga and his ‘Minuet in G’ as a Guaguancó.”

The band was founded by Gomez, a renowned musician in Cuba who settled in the United States 15 years ago. Over time, he formed a group staffed by musicians with whom he had studied at La ENA Havana, a rigorous music conservatory in Cuba.

“Each of us individually fled Cuba for freedom, and upon reuniting in Miami, we got together in our ‘Tiempo Libre’ (free time) from recording with other artists to perform the Cuban music that we loved,” Gomez said. “It’s our joy to bring Cuban music to new audiences and we are excited to play at Juniata College.”

Gomez and other Tiempo Libre members grew up in Cuba when it was illegal to hear American music. As teenagers, they climbed to the roof and waited until state-programmed Cuban music went off the air at 1 a.m. They then made antennas out of aluminum foil to try to get a radio signal from Miami so they could hear American music.

“Sometimes we would spend weeks trying to get that signal and sometimes we’d get lucky,” Gomez said.

Since their formation, Tiempo Libre’s members have been on a mission to serve as ambassadors to their Cuban culture. The seven childhood friends have made a name for themselves through standalone concerts across the globe, as well as collaborations with leading orchestras across the U.S.

Gomez said that concert-goers can expect a lot of great energy, good music, stories and a lot of soul.

“For all of us, music is not just a way of life it is the way we live life,” he said. “When we were growing up, there was no food, no water, no electricity and no plumbing. Music helped us escape all the difficulty. The whole idea is to forget your problems.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Tiempo Libre
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1
  • Where: Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts, 1900 Moore St., Huntingdon
  • Info: www.juniatapresents .com
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