At Swerve, we’ll admit to not having the firmest finger on the pulse of Latin music, but Expo Latino provides an educational opportunity on the best music to salsa, samba and cha-cha-cha to. We went to the experts at the Hispanic Arts Society, who host the annual event, for their picks of songs by Expo Latino artists. They came back with a list that includes Latin Grammy-winners Grupo Mania and Elvis Crespo. Keep scrolling to hear the songs, though take a look below for an interview with Expo Latino’s artistic director Carmen Galvez, who sat down with Swerve‘s going out editor Jon Roe to talk about the festival.
What’s new this year at Expo Latino? We have an international lineup together with the national and local artists. This year it’s grown even more. We are privileged to have Elvis Crespo. He’s the only Latin artist to have won a Latin Grammy and a Grammy Award. He celebrates his 30th anniversary on stage and he’s going to be at Expo Latino, closing on the Sunday.
We have everything from Wil Campa and his orchestra from Cuba on the Friday night with modern salsa and timba tunes. Saturday we have Oscar Lopez and Grupa Mania, celebrating their 30th anniversary. (Grupo Mania has) won a Latin Grammy and it’s a 16-piece orchestra.
Sunday we have Elvis Crespo and La Maquina, coming from El Salvador. You’re going to see on the mainstage a variety of musicians and dancers representing 22 Spanish speaking countries.
At the Salsa dance showcase on Saturday, we have 250 dancers going through the 45 minute showcase. We have Eric and Kelly choreographing the entire show and they’re the choreographers of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. They’re fourth on the salsa world ranking and they’re here in Calgary. They’re putting together a phenomenal show, everything from salsa and samba, to cha-cha.
How big is Calgary’s Latin community? It’s not that big, I’d say it’s around 25,000 people. It kind of varies because you have the more established ones, like the Chilean community and the people from El Salvador and Central America. And now the newcomers, which is more people from Colombia and Venezuela.
What we want to see more is to have the Latin community be the backstage players. So we’re the ones cooking, we’re the ones performing and dancing. We want to do a big showcase for everybody in Calgary to enjoy. For people who don’t get a chance to travel, they can come to Prince’s Island Park and it will be like being in Mexico or Spain.
On Friday night, there’s the Salsa Shines Class with Leo Pura Cubania. Is that an actual class people can attend? It’s for individual people, you don’t have to have a partner. You can come on your own and learn steps. Leo recently moved from Cuba. He was one of the main dancers in Cuba’s ballet. He moved to Canada just a few years ago. We’re privleged to have him at Expo Latino and he’s going to be teaching the class. If you don’t know any steps, you can come to the class and start warming up and learn a few steps, so you can enjoy and bring your dancing shoes for the entire weekend.
I know you don’t want to play favourites, but is there a food item people should try when they go? For me, I’m playing favourites because I’m from Chile—empanadas. Those are my favourite. It’s kind of like a meat pie. Empanada Queen is going to be there and they’re one of the more popular booths. Oh and I have to say, paella, from Spain. It’s not easy to find and we’re going to have a booth with paella as well.
Anything else you’d like to add? Children and seniors come in free. We feel very strongly—it is a family event and everyone can participate and celebrate Latin culture in Calgary.
“Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo
Elvis Crespo is the only Latin artist whose music has been played on the moon. The Spanish national football team celebrated their 2010 World Cup win by chanting one of his songs, and even President Barack Obama got into the Crespo groove at the Hispanic Congressional Caucus Awards in Washington, D.C. “Suavemente” is Crespo’s most widely recognized song.
“Pegaíto Suavecito” by Elvis Crespo, featuring Fito Blanko
On his latest hit, Crespo teams up with Fito Blanko, who performs at Expo Latino on Saturday. The two will hit the stage together on Sunday as well.
“Linda Eh” by Grupo Mania
Crespo was first a member of Puerto Rico’s Grupo Mania, widely considered the world’s No. 1 merengue band. The Crespo-written “Linda Eh” propelled him to stardom and enabled him to go solo in 1998.
“Me Miras y Te Miro” by Grupo Mania
Grupo Mania released their debut album in 1993. “Me Miras y Te Miro” is one of the classic songs from the album Está de Moda.
“Thinking of You (Pensando en Ti)” by Oscar Lopez
Never afraid to venture into different genres, Calgary’s Oscar Lopez incorporates jazz, blues, and even pop sensibilities into his music. Lopez has earned two Juno awards and multiple nominations.
“Rumba Buena” by Wil Campa y Su Gran Union, featuring Mr. Jordan
Wil Campa has toured extensively inside his native Cuba, including playing the Havana Jazz Festival, and internationally, introducing audiences worldwide to Cuban music.
“Yuma” by Trio Bembe
Trio Bembe plays infectious Latin music from around the world. This trio is overflowing with rhythmic energy.
“Píntame” by Elvis Crespo
Crespo’s album Píntame received the Grammy Award for Best Merengue Album and a Premio Lo Nuestro award for Tropical Album of the Year. The title track off the album has become one of Crespo’s classics.
“Picco” by La Maquina
In El Salvador, the award-winning La Maquina is considered to have the most dynamic fire show with professional dancers.
“Brisa” by Stephanie Pedraza
Stephanie Pedraza is a flamenco singer with a world-class voice who will be performing with Fiona Melena on Sunday at Expo Latino. “Brisa,” one of her latest hits, was released earlier this year.
Expo Latino: Friday, Aug. 23 to Sunday, Aug. 25 at Prince’s Island Park. Weekend pass, $45. expolatino.ca.