Cuban-born trumpeter and composer Lazaro Numa will showcase the story of Cuban music in the return season of his popular show Mi Cuba. With a six-piece band, stage dancers, and an audience dancefloor, he is bringing Cha Cha, Mambo, and the traditional rhythms of his homeland to Australia.
The café is bustling and Numa makes his way to the table. He has a warm personality, a vision for the future of his music, and a genuine appreciation for fellow performers. It’s no wonder he has had opportunities to tour and record with renowned ensembles and artists including the Afro Cuban All-Stars, Grammy-nominated Elio Villafranca, and Guajiro Mirabal, a member of the original Buena Vista Social Club.
Numa has travelled the globe performing a mix of genres from traditional Cuban pieces to Latin, pop, and jazz but he remains true to his own passion; to bring Cuba’s rich musical heritage to the rest of the world.
The Rhythm of Mi Cuba
Having performed in festivals with various artists over the past four years, Numa is excited to present a show of his own at the Adelaide Fringe.
“It’s basically a journey through different styles of Cuban music,” he says. “A lot of people tend to get caught up on the tourist thing and they only see salsa, but it’s so much more than that.”
The fast-paced dancing spirit of Latin Cuba along with Numa’s original works, recorded for his 2016 debut album, will be featured. His trumpet and vocals are backed by local musicians and accompanied by a team of four Cuban dancers.
In picking songs for the one-hour set, Numa envisioned a variety of musical eras to demonstrate more traditional Cuban sounds.
“The way I’m doing it is all just acoustic, using congas and percussion and piano. That’s the sound I wanted to go for.”– Lazaro Numa
Trumpet and Traditional Cuba
Numa fell in love with the trumpet listening to celebrated Cuban band Irakere. “The musicians they had in there were outstanding,” Numa remembers. His uncle worked as sound engineer for the band and took five year old Numa with him to their daily rehearsals. Assisting his uncle was Numa’s father who recognised his son’s interest and sent him to private trumpet lessons, then to music school at the age of eight. From there, Numa’s career grew and expanded.
In 2008, he travelled to Singapore, where he spent four years playing Latin and pop. It was there, away from his homeland, that Numa discovered his passion for traditional Cuban music.
“Being away from home, I was feeling like everyday that feeling of playing traditional Cuban music was stronger and stronger.”
His passion for this style of music was also inspired by the now-disbanded Buena Vista Social Club. As soon as he was able, Numa went back to Cuba and wrote his debut album of original pieces reflecting the country’s traditional rhythms.
“Despite all the economical problems that we have in Cuba, [the Buena Vista Social Club] never actually tried to do anything else more than play the traditional Cuban music.”
He reflects on how the band managed to keep their love for music unmarred by politics and pressure, something Numa also believes in.
“A lot of musicians tend to go into what they can do to make more money and those guys, they really believe in Cuban music. They really believe in the tradition and they stayed in that and they did pretty well.”
Music for the Future
Having travelled extensively, Numa is considering a change to his music in the coming years.
“Now that I’m living here, I realise that it’s a place where there is a lot of [cultural] influence.”– Lazaro Numa
He speaks about the cultural diversity in Adelaide and plans to work with a multicultural set of artists to produce music that incorporates a fusion of styles and cultures. Plans for a second album would explore this idea with a mix of original compositions, and a potential Cuban makeover for the music of pop artists such as John Farnham and ACDC.
“I have to be open to make my music and let all that influence come,” he says, while also firmly holding on to the heart of what music means to him. “My roots are going to be there and the way I like playing is going to be there.”
Numa welcomes all to join in his celebration of Cuba and have a blast!
Mi Cuba will be performed at the Campbelltown Function Centre on 26 and 28 February 2021.
Editor’s note: this profile feature was originally published on 22 February 2020. Mi Cuba will have its return season in 2021 and all event links and details have been updated accordingly.