Stories » Tiempo Libre's Jorge Gomez planning a musical about growing up under Castro's dictatorship / Daily Beast

Top 10 for Aug

Tiempo Libre's Jorge Gomez planning a musical about growing up under Castro's dictatorship / Daily Beast

Bookmark and Share

Jorge Gomez has always fallen afoul of the Cuban authorities-and now he's planning a musical about growing up under Castro's dictatorship. Growing up in Cuba, Jorge Gomez would sneak up to his roof with a metal coat hanger late at night and fashion it into a makeshift antenna, desperate to pick up sound waves from Miami radio stations. The fuzzy, clipped beats and melodies that crossed the ocean were unlike anything he'd heard in the streets of Cuba-and forbidden in Castro's police state.

Having fled Castro's dictatorship 20 years ago, Gomez, 44, is a pianist, songwriter, and the founding member of Tiempo Libre, which bills itself as "the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States." (Their sixth album, Panamericano, comes out on Tuesday.)  Arriving in the U.S. in 2000, Gomez settled in Miami and reunited with childhood friends whom he studied with at La ENA. Within a year, he convinced six of them to start a timba band and bring Cuban dance music to the States. 

"People would say I needed to play Mexican or country music to sell albums," Gomez tells me in his heavy Spanish accent. "But I didn't come to this country to sell albums. I came to play my music. I came to be happy with what I do and who I am." 

They were wrong about timba: U.S. audiences loved its unique sound of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies infused with funk and contemporary R&B beats. And Gomez did sell albums, three of which have been nominated for Grammy awards, including Bach in Havana (2009), which earned Tiempo Libre respect from the classical community. That same year, they collaborated with renowned violinist Joshua Bell on his album, At Home With Friends, and performed with him on The Tonight Show. Fusing Baroque and Afro-Cuban music was an innovative passion project for Gomez and the other Tiempo Libre band members who were forbidden to play anything but classical music at the conservatory.  

READ THE FULL Daily Beast ARTICLE