Cuban star Leoni Torres comes to The Wellmont
Thursday, Sept. 5, 8 p.m.
The Wellmont Theater
5 Seymour St.
By GWEN OREL
In Cuba, Leoni Torres (born Leonardo Torres Álvarez) has played to arenas that hold 15,000 people. He’s less well-known in America, but that may be changing; gigs last February in Miami quickly sold out.
Next Thursday, Sept. 5, Torres will perform at the Wellmont.
Torres has collaborated with Marc Anthony, and he wrote Anthony’s song “Traidora,” a tune viewed more than 355 million times on YouTube.
Formerly a member of the group David Calzado group Charanga Habenero, Torres is the vocalist behind the hit “Para que un día vuelvas.” Torres has been a soloist for six and a half years.
His songs, and the videos that go with them, have a sweeping romanticism, and a soaring lyric sweep.
We caught up with Torres as he and his tour producer, Giovanni Arana, were driving from a gig in San Diego to a concert in Los Angeles, “in very heavy traffic,” they said.
Torres does not speak English, so Arana translated for him and sometimes spoke. Torres lives in Cuba, and brought 15 people with him for the tour; Arana lives in Miami. The tour, which began Aug. 24, ends on Sept. 22 in Tampa, Fla.
Does music run in your family?
I have an uncle that was a percussionist, but nobody in the family was a musician.
What were your influences?
Arana: It’s always the same answer. He loves American music, he loves R&B, and the music of Michael Jackson. That was his first main guy.
How is Cuban music different from American pop music? How would you describe your music?
The language, the composition. Music is music… it’s the same in Cuba, and in Japan. The instruments are different. Hispanic music has congas, and bongo drums.
It’s more romantic pop. It’s not really tropical, though a few are tropical salsa.
Arana: If he does a salsa, he would never do one that goes to the cowbell part of being aggressive. That’s where the intensity starts, with a mambo, improvisation. His salsa tunes never go to the cowbell, not even in person. That’s a first for any Cuban artist that ever existed because it’s one of the most important instruments, the cowbell.
It’s music to dance to, and music to hear.
Tell me about the tour.
Arana: I’ve dealt with Cuban bands since 1999. The structure, and discipline these guys have, we have never ever dealt with. They prepare all the monitors and sound from computers in the hotel. Getting permits to have a work visa is ery hard from a Communist country, so it’s particularly unusual, in Latin music.
In Cuba, he’d play once a year in a town, maybe tickets would be $2. There is no Ticketmaster. It’s a different type of mechanism than what we’re used to.
Do you write all the songs you sing?
Arana: He owns all of his publishing.
What’s on your iPod?
Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin.
The job fairy comes down from Heaven and gives you one wish, and it can only be related to your career, no world peace or cure for cancer. What is it?
A Grammy Award. The one that my friend Marlow Rosado won, Best Tropical Latin Album.