Cuba's "Rolling Stones of salsa" set for U.S. tour

Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:24pm EST
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By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Grammy-winning Cuban band Los Van Van are celebrating 40 years of salsa revolution with a long-awaited return to the United States.

Often called the 'Rolling Stones of salsa', the group will perform in Key West, Florida on January 28, ending a long absence from the United States caused by tense U.S.-Cuban relations during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Los Van Van, a cult band credited with reinventing salsa time and again since their debut in 1969, will be the latest group of Cuban artists to benefit from a quiet resumption of cultural exchanges under current U.S. President Barack Obama.

Well-known Cuban musicians are being granted visas to perform at U.S. venues, a sign that Obama's administration is promoting cultural contacts as part of a strategy of warmer "people to people" ties with the Communist-run island.

Los Van Van's Key West show prefaces a 70-concert U.S. tour starting in April.

Band leader and bassist Juan Formell hopes the tour will exorcise memories of one of the group's last U.S. appearances -- a 1999 show in Miami where U.S. anti-riot police had to keep angry Cuban exile protesters from harassing concert-goers.

Miami is the center of the Cuban exile community in the United States.

But Formell, 67, says that hostility against artists from the island has eased.   Continued...