Sipping the sweet water of Agua Dulce |

Sipping the sweet water of Agua Dulce

Andy Stonehouse

It seems like a million years ago that every music publication was trumpeting the arrival of the Latin Music Explosion – with everyone from Ricky Martin to Enrique Iglesias suddenly championed as pop’s savior.

Tastes have changed – as they always do – but Latin-powered music hasn’t gone anywhere. And for newer, more original bands such as Southern California’s Agua Dulce, those Latin rhythms can take listeners to places they’d never imagined.

The group, which appears this afternoon at State Bridge Lodge, has become an international favorite for its unconventional mixture of Afro-Cuban, salsa, reggae and funk sounds. Catch a show by the band – as many locals did during Agua Dulce’s last Budweiser Street Beat performance – and you’ll never view Latin music in quite the same light.

Agua Dulce (“sweet water”) came together in 1997, although bandleaders Tizoc and Joaquin Hernandez (on bass and drums, respectively) have been playing together for more than 15 years, starting their musical careers with a short-lived, borderline insane punk combo called Chicken Farm. The Hernandezes’ familial bond has apparently produced a level of drum and bass communication that borders on the psychic, providing an amazing cornerstone for the whole band.

The group is rounded out by bilingual vocalist Dante Loaiza, who also plays quarto (a traditional Puerto Rican guitar), trumpet and percussion. Lead English vocals are provided by Dante Thomas, who doubles on keyboards and 12-string Cuban guitar; Agua Dulce also features guitarist Max Cabello and percussionist Paul Lopez. Many of the group’s members first met each other while attending an African drumming class at Southern California’s Chula Vista Community College.

The band’s sound takes an amazingly inclusive and genre-bending approach, mixing traditional Afro-Cuban sounds with nuyorican salsa, samba, Bossa nova, Latin jazz, cubia, reggae and modern alternative rock.

Recent years have seen the band put in appearances in France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, the Balkans and Mexico, as well as a memorable performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The band’s inventive Latin mixture has also earned them some pretty cool gigs, opening for acts such as “Buena Vista Social Club” vet Barbarito Torres, Los Lobos, James Brown and fellow SoCal new-school Latin legends Ozomatli.

Next Saturday, State Bridge will feature the wildly inventive music of veteran guitarist David Lindley and his longtime collaborator Wally Ingram. Call 653-4444 for more details and tickets.

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