Charanga Tropical is a nine-piece ensemble featuring three violins, flute, and a sizzling Latin rhythm section. Star Tribune raves about the group's "distinctive Caribbean sound” while City Pages calls the group “a musical delight and a visual spectacle.”
Using an instrumentation that dates back to the roots of the music in Cuba, Charanga Tropical blends the old with the new to create a sound that is classic yet modern. Music that is rich in harmony and melody, fantastic for listening and superb for dancing.
The repertoire of Charanga Tropical features rarely heard danzones and a spicy variety of son, salsa, cha cha cha, and timba. The members of the group include master musicians from Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Their collective accomplishments include tours to Asia, Europe, and South America, platinum recordings, doctorate degrees, and multiple Latin Grammy nominations.
The authentic core of Charanga Tropical are Cubans Damian Rodríguez and Viviana Pintado.
Damian Rodríguez grew up splitting his time between the city of Havana and the Cuban countryside. A professional singer and percussionist for over twenty-five years, Damían has performed with Latin groups from Miami to New York to Minneapolis. A showman and a professional, Mr. Rodríguez starts the musical party and keeps it hot.
Viviana Pintado is star pianist and vocalist. Like Rodríguez also from Havana, Viviana has toured internationally with salsa queen Albita Rodriguez. As a member of Albita’s group she received three Latin Grammy nominations. After coming to the United States, Viviana first settled in Miami where she was named Critic Choice by The Miami Hearld as the city's Best Pianist and Best Vocalist. She relocated to Minneapolis in 2004.
Charanga Tropical flute player Douglas Little creditials inclinternational tours, several CDs, and artist residencies in France, Cuba, and Brazil. In addition to Charanga Tropical, Little has composed for jazz ensembles, saxophone quartets, and symphony orchestra. He has appeared in concert with Grammy winner Joe Lovano, Latin Grammy winners Tiempo Libre, and pianist “Chuchito” Valdés. Little lived in Havana, Cuba for seven months during which time he apprenticed with legendary musicians such as flautist Joaquin Oliveros (flautist for Guillermo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdés) Jorge “Lele” Leliebre (Grammy winner with Los Van Van), flutist David Bencomo (Manolito y Su Trabuco), percussionist Mauricio Upmann (HabanaSax), and arranger Andrés Alén (Latin Grammy nominee, former pianist for Arturo Sandoval).
The percussionists of Charanga Tropical are from Brazil, Eliezer Freitas-Santos (congas) and from Mexico, Mariano Flores (timbales). Eliezer was born into a family of folkloric priests in Brazil's cultural heartland of Bahia. He began drumming with groups at the age of five years old and later as a professional lived in Argentina for fourteen years. Mariano Flores is from Mexico City. Eventually his music career led him to relocate to the Mexico's eastern coast where he performed with music groups of all styles at nightclubs and resorts.
Expert across a range of styles, bassist Mark Haynes recorded with Janet Jackson on two platinum selling CDs. He is also a longtime member of the Grammy winning gospel group Sounds Of Blackness, with whom he has toured to Europe, Japan, and throughout the United States.
The string section of Charanga Tropical features violinists Kerri Fabyanske and Latannia Ellerbe, and violist Kirsti Petraborg. Fabyanske has played numerous recitals and concertos both solo and with orchestras and possesses a doctorate in violin performance. Ellerbe is a doctoral candidate and the University of Minnesota, the recipient of several awards, and also an excellent jazz performer. Kirsti Petraborg recently received her own doctorate in viola performance. She has played with artists across a range of styles and is recognized as one of the most verstile string players in Minneapolis. Together these combine their sounds to create the rich string section melodies that shape Charanga Tropical.