Prescencia Cubana Returns to Echo Park

The fantastic festival celebrated the cultural heritage of the Cuban community living throughout the greater L.A. area

By Ricky Ricardo, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: May 27, 2014

Prescencia Cubana Returns to Echo Park

A huge, enthusiastic crowd welcomed the return of Prescencia Cubana to Echo Park on Sunday, May 18, 2014. This fantastic festival celebrated the cultural heritage of the Cuban community living throughout the greater Los Angeles area. The festival featured live performances, arts and crafts, Cuban food and coffee and activities for children. The event also commemorates the island's freedom from Spain on May 20, 1902.

The festival took place at Echo Park, but with a different logistical layout. The festival gave new meaning to dancing in the streets, without the need for a dance floor.

Omar Godoy returned as Master of Ceremonies, and delivered a special greeting to usher in this year's edition of Prescencia Cubana. Lazaro Galarraga led a spiritual comparsa from the Marti Monument to the Main Stage. The comparsa featured pulsating drumming, and a contingent of vibrant dancers.

The live entertainment on the stage got under way with Mambo Mass. The set consisted of Danilo Lozano and Cuba LA presenting selections from Cachao's Mambo Mass which premiered in Los Angeles in 2000. The group consisted of Danilo Lozano, vocals and flute, with Iris Cepeda and Lazaro Gallarraga on vocals on the tunes "Como Tu Ritmo, No Hay Dos," "Entrada," "Gloria," "Alleluia," "Communion," "Farewell," and "Ave Maria."

The actions heated up during the cooking set served up by Chanqui Majadera. This tight group brought to Los Angeles authentic Chanqui music from Cuba. The group is led by Tres player Gabriel Garcia. The group captivated the audience with it's high energy, lyricism, and soulful syncopated swing on the tunes "Majumbero," "Guararey," "La Rumba esta Buena," and "Es El Bongo," to name a few.

The AC Jazz Project led by trumpeter Josiel Perez sent the festival revelers into a musical frenzy, from their first note to the end of their explosive set. The band threw down some serious Timba, Cuba's hottest dance music. The AC Jazz Project consists of former members of some of Cuba's best dance bands such as Maraca, Piloto y Klimax, Haila, NG La Banda and Opus 13.

Prescencia Cuban en Los Angeles honored the musical legacy of Cachao earlier in the day. The spirit of Celia Cruz could be felt throughout the festival. Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig jersey was worn by many in attendance as well as other clothing, hats, caps, bandanas and other proud Cuban memorabilia.

The festival concluded with a brilliant set of The Arsenio Rodriquez Project, in keeping with the official them of celebrating legends of Cuban music. The Arsenio Rodriquez Project is an All-Star ensemble made up today's top Los Angeles musicians, who came together to pay tribute to the artistry and genius of Arsenio Rodriquez, the father of Salsa and the master and creator of modern Cuban dance music. The band wowed the crowd with the tunes "Dile A Catalina," "Papa Upa," "Fuego en el 23," "Mami Me Gusto" to close out a searing hot edition of Prescencia Cubana en Los Angeles.

The park was bursting with energy with several rumbas (drum circles and dancers), ruedas (salsa dancers) and a rousing good time by all in attendance.

Pictured: Danilo Lozano and Al Nodal

About Ricky Ricardo, Contributing Writer:
Ricky Ricardo is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer with an emphasis in World music and culture.

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