Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Hot Salsa & Cool Air @ Republic

Republic of Salsa delivered another great Cuban salsa party last night at Chorlton Irish Club. And anyone scared off by memories of the slippery, sweaty hell we all went through last time needn’t have worried: this time the air conditioning was perfect. Cool, in every sense.

Dark Magician: somewhere in his magic cave, Les mixes the music...

Les and Andy kept the floor hot with a great fuelling of salsa tracks, the new lights (think laser-red with interlacing patterns of intense green) were fabulous, and both movie-screens were flickering away to create atmosphere – Oliver Stone’s Castro documentary on one wall and Buena Vista Social Club on the other. Plus an interesting (?Cuban?) pop video I couldn’t identify. Where did you get that one, guys? The only factor missing was Lorraine, still on her camping holiday in Wales. Mil besitos, Lorraine, and hope you’ve got some sunshine! We missed you.

Les gets the whole room dancing Bachata

Les gets everyone dancing bachata

Les kicked off the evening with a great Bachata class, teaching a simple, classic routine that anyone could master but also felt like dancing real bachata. A huge confidence-boost for bachata-dabblers like me.

Radiant: Solar Salsa's Mike and Pauline
Radiant: Solar Salsa’s Mike and Pauline

As always, the crowd was wonderfully mixed. Teachers I spotted on the dancefloor included Pauline and Mike from Solar Salsa, Andre from Baby Salsa, and Mo from Cuba Cafe. There were crowds of friends from Opus, Spreadeagle, Cuba Cafe, La Tasca, and Copas – plus a lot of people I hadn’t seen for months and was really glad to have a dance with again. There were two or three great rueda sessions, and given the decibel level, the Solar Salsa teachers’ skill with hand signals really came into its own. I’m probably going deaf (too many years of loud music) but as long as Pauline’s that good at semaphore it won’t matter too much!

Before finishing I have to apologise to La Casa de la Salsa: I had wanted to go to the Ball on Friday but couldn’t make it for reasons beyond my control. I’m sure it was fabulous. Next time I’ll get there.

Oh, and a final PS: Anyone wants to take pics off this blog, from this post or any other, go ahead and copy them (click your right mouse button to ‘copy’ then ditto to ‘paste’). it’s fine to use on FB if you want. Just please give a credit to www.grevel.co.uk – thanks!

Best Cuban Salsa Night Outside Cuba?

For months I’ve been telling everyone who’ll listen that the best and most authentic Cuban salsa night in Manchester is Republic of Salsa. Last night (Saturday 5 Dec 09) I felt totally vindicated. It was pure dynamite: seriously, the best salsa night I’ve been to anywhere outside Cuba.

Lorraine mixes her salsa magic

Lorraine mixes her salsa magic

I’ll go further. Last time I went to Republic of Salsa I just caught myself heading for the bar to pick up another Cristal, and realised that for the past few minutes I’d truly slipped into thinking I was back in Havana. These club nights are that good.

Last night was a solid feast of Cuban beats: non-stop hardcore bailable Cuban salsa tracks at the son and timba edge of things, with enhanced edge and depth added by Jack McCarthy playing congas up there alongside the DJ deck. (He also had a set of timbales but mysteriously never seemed to touch them). Plus the usual garnish of reggaeton, bachata and merengue. The sound-system was superb, and the Irish Club’s new (or resurfaced?) dancefloor, which started off feeling a bit sticky, wore in nicely as the evening went on.

A rueda moment: !Arriba!

A rueda moment: !Arriba!

The session kicked off with Lorraine organising a huge beginners-friendly rueda and relentlessly heated up from there on.

The place was heaving and people danced their feet off. There was that intent, glistening, hypnotised, sweaty feel you get in Havana around two in the morning – though here it set in about eleven p.m. And pretty much everyone on the Manchester salsa scene was there, including two of the contenders for ‘coolest guy in the city’ in the form of Cuba Cafe’s Mo-ji and Baby Salsa’s Andre. Mo was resplendent in black beaded Native American buckskin and a shiny top hat; and Andre forsook his usual pose of pensive observer to dive in and dance by the hour. The sheer friendliness of everyone was tangible: laughing, smiling, kissing, grabbing hands. Was it possible, I wondered, that Chorlton really was becoming an outpost of Cuba?

Andre and Mo-ji: Cool or what?

Andre and Mo-ji: Cool or what?

Maybe the Irish Club’s refurbished bar and table area are a little too smart for the purist. I used to feel the tatty plaster and horrible curtains added to the sense of authenticity, giving the place that inimitable not-touched-since-1959 Havana look. But the newly smooth ceiling made a great arena for the lightshow. And for those who miss the grainy black-and-white Cuban movies on the rear wall, Lorraine tells me they’ll be back as soon as the new projector has been installed.

Jack McCarthy on Congas (and who's that beautiful girl?)

Jack McCarthy on Congas (and who's that beautiful girl?)

Republic of Salsa (promoted by Mancuban Salsa and Baby Salsa – see Facebook) runs first Saturdays of alternate months, so the next one should be 6 February. Do not miss it. This is a total-immersion Cuban dance experience you won’t find anywhere else. One day people are gonna wish they’d been there. You can. All you’re waiting for now is February.

Though if you can’t wait that long, you might still get to La Habana for New Year: check out key2Cuba.com

I’ll be reporting on Rohan Brown and Mojito live at the Tower Ballroom Blackpool (Fri 11 Feb) straight after the event. Watch this space! And if you still don’t have the two best albums by the best Cuban band, see below!