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Swedish take on Latin beats

by Sally Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Japan’s biggest Latin music celebration, Isla de Salsa, hopes to bring encouragement to a country still coping with problems resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.

The lineup includes Swedish band Calle Real, a timba (a type of Cuban salsa) band making their Japan debut. The festival will also feature performances by SOFFet, Brown Sugar and Sakishima meeting, among others. Dance performances will include salsa, tango and flamenco, with dancers hailing from Cuba, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Japan taking part.

The festival is in its 15th year and will take place in Fukuoka, an area with strong historical ties to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. The name of the festival comes from the sauce “salsa,” not the dance, and is meant to reflect the idea of bringing a blend of understanding across different cultures and individual flavors.

This mix is especially prominent this year as Calle Real will be the first Latin band from a non-Latin American country to play at the festival. The group will also play in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo as part of the Vivela Salsa Tour, a yearly event that started in 2002.

Both the Isla de Salsa and Vivela Salsa festivals are run by the Kyushu-based Tiempo Iberoamericano, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 that aims to promote international and cultural exchange through language learning, cultural classes and exhibitions. Director Santiago Herrera says the festivals create a space for genuine communication among people and show a “form of solidarity and union between all participants” in what he sees as a reflection of Japan’s strength to overcome the difficulties caused by the quake.

Isla de Salsa takes place Aug. 6, 7 at Seaside Momochi, Jigyohama, Fukuoka Prefecture. Tickets cost ¥4,500 for one day, ¥7,800 for two days. For more information, visit www.isla-de-salsa.jp. Vivela Japon! takes place in Fukuoka (Aug. 6, 7); Osaka (Aug. 9); Nagoya (Aug.10); and Tokyo (Aug. 11). Ticket prices cost from ¥4,500-¥5,500. For more information, visit www.vivela.jp.