Los Van Van
It's not that often that a group credited with creating an entire musical genre comes to town, but Cuba's Los Van Van holds that distinction. Formed in the late '60s, Juan Formell and his troupe of conservatory-educated musicians injected the sounds of rock, funk, soul and disco they heard on U.S. radio waves into traditional Cuban son and salsa, much the same way their Caribbean neighbors in Jamaica created ska and reggae. In the process, Los Van Van named not only themselves — the name translates as "the go-go," after the fast-paced funk subspecies — but also songo, now one of the most prevalent and influential styles in the entire Latin-music diaspora. Instantly popular on their native island and in Latin America and Europe, Los Van Van began making waves stateside in the '90s and won the 1999 Best Salsa Performance Grammy for their album Llega Van Van. Touring behind this year's aptly named Estrellas de Cuba ("Stars of Cuba"), Formell and his "Rolling Stones of Salsa" are still going strong.
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