The exotic dance style called charanga may have originated in Cuba, but one of the genre’s finest bands is the Seattle, Washington, USA-based Yerbabuena. While charanga is their musical speciality, Yerbabuena is very adept at other exotic dance genres as well, including son, cha-cha-chá, guaguancó, and danzón. This large group of musicians has been together in one form or another since 1994, with members including Tom Bergersen (guiro/conga), Barney Brazitis (bass), Astrae Doty-Vargas (vocals), Theodora Fogarty (violin), Marc Gavin (violin), Fred Hoadley (piano/tres/vocals), Elspeth Macdonald (lead vocals/clarinet), Heather Ballard and Irene Mitri (violin), Sabra Weber and Jim O’Halloran (flute), Steve Smith and Ernesto Pediangco (bongo/guiro), and Lance Lu and Chris Stromquist (timbales). While the group do perform some original material, Yerbabuena opt to play songs from renowned Cuban artists including Buena Vista Social Club, Orquesta Aragón, Los Van Van, Benny Moré, Eliades Ochoa, Candido Fabré, and Original De Manzanillo. Although they had been a band for quite some time, Yerbabuena did not release a proper studio recording until 2001’s Vaiven De Mar.
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