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Cuban rhythms dancing to Eugene.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

Eugene is known for many things, but having a large Cuban immigrant population is not one of them.

Perhaps for that reason, this town may never have been treated to a live performance of timba music, a relatively new style of dance music that draws from funk, jazz and classical music, as well as traditional Cuban rhythms.

The Shedd is known for many things, but dance parties are not among them. To make way for the timba stylings of Miami's Tiempo Libre, the Shedd is taking out seats on both sides of the hall so people can move freely to the beats.

Although timba is exotic and new to this area, it's conducive to salsa dancing and accessible to listeners right away, local musician Jeryl Johnston says.

"What really captures my imagination with this music is it has all of the appeal of pop music," said Johnston, who conducts music lessons at the Shedd and specializes in salsa. But "on the other hand, it's extremely complex and extremely difficult to play."

Bandleader Jorge Gomez, by telephone from Miami, agreed the music is difficult to master. He also noted that it's typically played with 14 to 18 people, yet his band of seven manages to create a full sound by incorporating timbales, piano, keyboard, bongos, cowbell, saxophone, trumpet, bass, congas and many other instruments.

Gomez said that as a child in Cuba, he and his peers would listen illegally to American radio. They became entranced by the funk sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, which deeply affected timba's beginnings.

Hip-hop and rumba rhythms also have influenced timba.

When Tiempo Libre's members were students at the National School of the Arts, they received classical training on a range of instruments. After school, the students from various age levels gathered to improvise music of their own.

Timba emerged only in the 1980s, according to most online references.

"If you didn't study in that school, you never can play timba," Gomez said, noting from his perspective there are two kinds of music in Cuba: classically trained music and "iffy."

Each of the young musicians who later would join Tiempo Libre found their way to the United States, and not always by a direct route. G<227>mez said he went to Guatemala first, and that the music there also had an influence on him.

"We met again here in Miami," Gomez said. He said they chose the name because everyone was in other bands and timba was what they played in their tiempo libre, or free time.

"Right now, we don't have free time," he said.

The group is promoting a new album, "Lo Que Esper- abas," or "What You've Been Waiting For." A previous release, "Arroz Con Mango," was nominated for a Latin Grammy this year, according to the band's Web site.

Tiempo Libre's members are now between the ages of 30 and 38. Gomez said touring the world with a genre so specific to their homeland is a dream come true, because they never would have had the rewards they have now if they had stayed in Cuba.

Those rewards, he said, are financial and personal. He said when he conducts workshops for children, the looks on their faces while reacting to the music make him so happy he could cry.

As for what to expect during a show, Gomez said to be prepared to lose your inhibitions.

"We play like crazy people," he said. "When you transmit that kind of energy, people dance. They don't know why they are dancing. ...

`It's very strange situation for people. They don't know if they are going to see a concert or going to scream. We transmit a lot of energy, and people do whatever they want to do.

`Be prepared for a very crazy night."

CONCERT PREVIEW Tiempo Libre What: Cuban music in the timba style When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday Where: The Shedd, 285 E. Broadway Tickets: $26, $32 and $36
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Tiempo Libre's dance music is hard to play, but easy to enjoy
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 27, 2006
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
Next Article:'Criminally undernoticed' Mark Germino reconnecting.

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