The Japanese government can be thanked for one thing: open treaties with the Cuban government that allow the most scorching salsa players in the world to perform here on a regular basis. Perhaps the government doesn’t have a choice since Japan has an unusually high percentage of Latin music aficionados. The latest listings for Latin clubs, dance teachers, live shows and concerts fills the pages of the magazine Salsa 120% and its Web site (www.salsa120.com). To please these endless fans, a steady stream of salseros and Latin jazz maestros have played to packed clubs and crowded dance floors over the past few years. At the end of this month, one of the most popular bands in Cuba, Manolito y su Trabuco, will bring its sizzling hot brand of Cuban music for a summer tour of Japan.

Leader Manolito Simonet is a little different from the average salsero. Rather than starting as just another pretty face with a smooth voice, he was a songwriter first, providing heartbreaking ballads and raging party tunes to others for years before forming Trabuco (which translates as “war machine”) in the early ’90s. The group evolved from a small, traditionally minded, brass-based unit into its current 16-piece, powerhouse size (all of whom will be coming) as Manolito’s sound formed its trademark style. Like other salsa bands, Manolito draws on both the past and the present, but in a fuller organic sense. He is clearly influenced by masters such as Los Van Van and Adalberto Alvarez, and delivers his original tunes with similar virtuosity and passion.

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