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Music Review Sensational salsa session

Ran Kan Kan + Gerardo y su Rambacha
Old Fire Station, Oxford

RAN KAN KAN have been stalwarts of the Oxford music scene and a magnet for the city’s best budding salsa musicians since 2011.

Tonight, they've put together a fantastic bill, beginning with a masterclass in rumba dance from Ariel Rios, followed by a chance to put new-found skills to work with a performance by Gerardo y su Rambacha.

This powerful act play authentic Cuban rumba, a mesmerising and evocative art form viscerally stripped down to drums and voice. In rumba, the “traditional” — at least by modern Western standards — relationship between these two is reversed, with vocal chants providing a repetitive rhythmic base for the freer and more varied, even melodic, phrasing of the drums.

The transcendent power of the music comes from the juxtaposition of an incessant and relentless repetitive groove underpinning an utterly unhinged virtuosity, which Gerardo and co certainly have in spades. The result is a hypnotic and liberating experience, a case of “free your arse and your mind will follow.”

Ran Kan Kan have now reached an impressive, and potentially unwieldy, 21 members. Yet they are sounding tighter than ever, completely transformed from the endearing group of salsa enthusiasts of five years ago to the truly consummate act of today.

They open with Tito Puente’s Oriente, a slow and sultry number worthy of the Buena Vistas themselves, which features a sumptuously sleazy trombone solo. From then on, it is fast-paced all the way, encompassing genres spanning the spectrum of Cuban music including rumba, bolero and son — sometimes in the same song — and even including a mambo take on the Pink Panther theme.

Super-hot percussion keeps the audience moving, the brass section provides a lavish opulence to proceedings and the powerful vocal harmonies impress.

Thoroughly exhilarating.



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