For the members of the Cuban band Septeto Santiaguero, the streets of their hometown are nutrition for their music.
It's where they find ideas for lyrics and rhythms. While in Havana, there can be found a mix of Cuban and Latin music, from salsa to reggaeton, in Santiago de Cuba, traditional son, bolero and trova dominate the music scene.
"I think that if we lived in another place, we wouldn't have all the elements that we need, all the influences of Santiago," says Fernando Dewer, the band's leader and tres player. "Cuba is a musical island, but Santiago stands out because of the diversity of genres that are preserved there. And you can see those manifestations in theaters, restaurants and in the streets, constantly."
Septeto Santiaguero brings a bit of that energy with them everywhere they go. For two decades, they have toured in Europe and Latin America, preforming in Spain, Colombia, Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil. They performed for the first time in the United States in 2016 during the Grammy Awards ceremony at the Lincoln Center in New York, where they received the Grammy for "Best Traditional Tropical Album."
Septeto will bring their music to Miami for the first time Saturday, Jan. 14, with a performance at the Koubek Center. The show is the first 2017 event of the dance series Little Havana Social Club.
"We have a lot of friends, a lot of acquaintances in Miami, and our music isn't new. It's traditional music. The majority of the songs we play are well known," Dewer says. "And it's not music just for Cubans. It's for Latinos and Americans, too, because it's a universal language. You don't need language to understand it, because the music will take you."
A typical son septet features guitar, tres, bongo, clave, maracas, acoustic bass and trumpet. Even though Septeto Santiaguero has an eighth member playing percussion, they've maintained the original name because their sound remains traditional.
"The concept and final result is the same," Dewer says. "Before, the percussion was played by only one person, and we wanted to reinforce the rhythmic sound. So we have a guest percussionist that performs with us in almost every concert. He's a guest musician, but he's part of the Septeto family."
The band began their career performing at Casa de la Trova, a small restaurant in Santiago de Cuba known for showcasing traditional music.
"It's a place that came about spontaneously, where the musicians would meet and sing," Dewer says. "Over the years, it developed a schedule, but it never lost its spontaneous character and the musicians. To this day, La Casa de la Trova is the most important stage. It's the reference for traditional music in Santiago."
For Dewer, expanding their music into the American market has been an important step.
"Performing in the United States is always a goal. I think not only for us, but to any artist," Dewer says. "What's important for us is that people listen to our music. That people go to the concerts and communicate with us. We're not a calm septet. We are a septet that moves around the stage. We have choreographies. The musicians improvise. We are a septet that defends traditional music through a more contemporary perspective."
Septeto Santiaguero will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Koubek Center, 2705 SW Third St., in Miami. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door and $10 for Miami Dade College students. Call 305-237-7750 or go to KoubekCenter.org.