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Grammy-nominated Cuban musicians head to Lincoln

Courtesy of Tiempo LIbre

Tiempo Libre, a Cuban salsa group that has been nominated for three Grammys, including Best Latin Band in 2008, is coming to Columbus to throw what it calls a “music party for everybody.”

“Our style is called timba. It’s a mix between salsa and jazz. It’s more of a Miami style,” keyboardist and music director Jorge Gomez said.

Timba has its roots in Cuban culture and developed differently than other types of Hispanic music because of its strong Afro-Cuban heritage.

Gomez said he and the other six members of the group were classically trained at La ENA, a music conservatory in Havana, Cuba. They moved to Miami to spread their brand of music.

He said they try to do services for the Cuban community in Havana and Miami, such as teaching people how to play timba, Latin jazz and rumba.

“Their goal is to serve as ambassadors to their Cuban musical heritage,” said Tiempo Libre’s public relations contact Allison Ravenscroft, in an e-mail.

Over the span of their career, Tiempo Libre has produced six albums, toured across the world and opened for Aretha Franklin.

“It was scary opening for Aretha. We don’t know how the audience is going to react to our music,” Gomez said. “But they enjoyed it because our music is for people who like to have fun.”

Gomez said all of it would be nothing without each other and their families’ support. He said his wife even joins them on tour sometimes.

In its most recent album, “Bach in Havana,” Tiempo Libre fused the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and its Cuban musical heritage. It got the group its third Grammy nomination. “Lo Que Esperabas” earned the band a nomination for Best Latin Tropical Album in 2006, and “Arroz Con Mango” was nominated for Best Salsa/Merengue Album in 2005.

“It’s the story of my life, our lives growing up in Havana, playing classical music,” Gomez said. He continued to say that they learned classics during the day and then at night would meet up and play Cuban music.

Growing up together, the group came to look at Gomez as their leader, at least according to him.

“I am everything for them. I am their friend, their father. I am also the person that puts all the ideas together,” Gomez said.

He said that making music was a group effort, however.

“First of all, it’s like a party. One guy calls me and says ‘I have an idea,’ so I go to his house with a six pack to work on that idea. He gives the lyrics and I put together the music,” he said.

Gomez refers to Tiempo Libre’s shows as parties and not concerts, because he wants the audience to dance, sing along and interact with the music. He said the group’s music is meant for moving, not sitting down.

He listed inspirations for their music, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Kool & the Gang, Norah Jones and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Gomez said the group will be releasing a new album, “My Secret Radio,” on May 3, which it recorded in Miami.

Tiempo Libre will be performing at 8 p.m. Friday at the Lincoln Theatre. Tickets are $15 for students who use the code ‘STUDENT’ when ordering tickets online.

“People have to be prepared for a Cuban party when they come to our concerts,” Gomez said. “They’re unlike anything you’ve ever been to.”

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