Cuba’s legendary, Grammy-winning dance orchestra, FORMELL Y LOS VAN VAN, who bring directly from Cuba their blend of salsa, disco, and funk is returning to Lehman Center to celebrate their 50th Anniversary on Saturday, June 1st, 2019 at 8 pm.
Heralded as Cuba’s greatest dance orchestra known worldwide for their iconic live performances, Formell y LOS VAN VAN features three of the late founder Juan Formell‘s children: leader and drummer/timbalero Samuel Formell, bassist Juan-Carlos Formell and the family’s youngest daughter, lead vocalist Vanessa Formell. For this special concert, the orchestra will also be joined by the legendary Los Van Van vocalists Mario Rivera and Pedro Calvo.
Formell y LOS VAN VAN, nicknamed the “Cuban Music Train,” is regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of 20th-century Cuban popular music. Founded in 1969 by Juan Formell when he was 27 years old, the band pioneered Songo, a hybrid rhythm that blended Cuba’s native folkloric son music with the go-go of the 1970s and has electrified dance floors in Havana for over forty-five years. The band’s original members - Juan Formell (bandleader, bass player, and songwriter), Cesar “Pupy” Pedroso (piano, songwriter), and Jose Luis “Changuito” Quintana (drums and timbales) – were music conservatory trained from a young age and were fascinated with the soul, go-go and disco music that dominated U.S. radio.
They named their dance band Los Van Van (which literally means “they go-go”) after the go-go fad and pioneered the hybrid of a son and go-go music – Songo – which can now be found throughout Latin jazz, pop, and world fusion. And if the genius of Songo wasn’t enough, they also developed the complex rhythmic style that became known as Timba that was adopted by other bands in the ‘90s. Los Van Van soon became one of the best-known Cuban groups in the world, maintaining a loyal fan base throughout Latin America, Europe and Japan propelled by hits like: “La Sandunguera,” “Anda, Ven y Muévete,” “Te Traigo” and “Yuya Martinez.” In 1993 Changuito left the band and was replaced by Formell’s son Samuel who also proved to be an outstanding composer as evidenced by songs like “Te Pone La Cabeza Mala”, the title track of one of their best albums.
Although American politics hindered their ability to break into the U.S. market, their popularity in the U.S. grew throughout the ’90s, and the band toured the U.S. for the first time in 1997, including a memorable concert at Lehman Center. In 1999, Los Van Van was honored with the GRAMMY® Award for Best Salsa Performance for their fifteenth album, Llegó...Van Van -- Van Van is Here and in 2013, the Latin Recording Academy awarded Juan Formell with a special Grammy for a Lifetime Achievement of Artistic Excellence. With over 40 albums to their credit, Formell y Los Van Van’s 2015 album Homenaje A Juan Formell: La Fantasia, was 80% completed at the time of Juan Formell’s death in 2014 and was finished under the direction of his son Samuel with another son, Juan-Carlos Formell. The album’s release on Reyes Records in December 2014 was on the 45th anniversary of the band’s founding and it features several of the band’s hit dance tracks refreshed with contemporary arrangements as well as many new songs including the widely popular “Somos Diferentes”, “Todo me Acabó” and “La Moda”. Sony Music released it worldwide in 2016 and it earned a 2017 Grammy nomination for the Best Tropical Latin Album. The group’s most recent album Los Van Van son La Patria is scheduled to be released on Cuba’s Engrem label later this summer.
MARIO “MAYITO” RIVERA is nicknamed “El Poeta de La Rumba” for his ability to vocally interpret all forms of Cuban music in both modern and traditional styles with a colorful range that can be powerfully dynamic or tender and soft. He was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and has degrees from both the Escuela Nacional de Arte and the Instituto Superior de Arte. After college, he joined the band of Cuban singer Albita Rodríguez and played bass in Grupo Moncada. From 1992 to 2011, Mayito was the characteristic voice and face of the extremely successful Cuban band, Los Van Van. He sang many of the band’s salsa hits, for which he was rewarded with a Latin GRAMMY® and two nominations.
PEDRO “PEDRITO” CALVO is a popular Cuban-born vocalist known for his charismatic and unique singing style which often includes clever wordplay and expressive rhythmic vocal sounds. Pedrito started his professional career singing with his father’s orchestra. He then sang with several Cuban orchestras including La Riviera, La Orquesta de Julio Valdés, and La Ritmo Oriental singing on hits like “Mi Socio Manolo” and “Aquí el Que Manda es Mulé”. He is most famous for his time (1974-2001) with Los Van Van, where he was part of the infamous lead singing trio of Los Van Van along with Mayito Rivera and Roberto Hernández.