Bio Ritmo brings life and rhythm

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September 30, 2008

2:32 AM

The salsa band Bio Ritmo added some spice to the Commonwealth last Wednesday night in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Originally from Richmond, Bio Ritmo has been together for more than 15 years, offering a unique blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms, experimental salsa and socially conscious lyricism. The name Bio Ritmo combines the English “Bio” with the Spanish “Ritmo,” meaning “life rhythm.” This idea translates into the band’s unique sound.
“Previously, we were a group of musicians playing salsa music,” lead singer Rei Alvarez said. “Now we are a salsa band playing all kinds of music. We love every musical style: Middle Eastern, jazz, country. We let the music that we love come through.”
Students and faculty were hesitant to dance at first, but the music quickly brought them out on the dance floor. A number of students, including members of the Swing Dance Club, took advantage of the vibrant, fast-paced rhythms.
“I love that dancing, ya’ll,” Alvarez shouted to the crowd.
The band played both new and old songs. Jams from their newly released album “Bionico” blended funk, rock and Latin musical styles.
“Latin, soul and jazz are the three main musical styles of our sound,” Alvarez said. “But we have a concern for craftsmanship and creativity. If the music is good, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.”
The explosive, well-crafted solos and energetic improvisations were backed by a great deal of call-and-response playing between Alvarez and other band members. Alvarez played traditional salsa instruments including the cowbell, the tambourine and the guiro, a percussive instrument in the shape of a gourd.
Though the music often ventures away from traditional salsa, Alvarez described the band’s style as a contribution to Hispanic culture and music.
“We’ve rooted our music in classic salsa, and it’s about the project of preservation,” Alvarez said. “Even though we write new stuff, most of us started in salsa. Lyrically and musically, we are still on a socially concerned level. But we are always learning.”
Maria Zarate ’10, co-president of the Hispanic Cultural Organization, sees the band’s performance as a way of spreading Hispanic cultural awareness on campus. HCO also planned a late night salsa session in Lodge 1 on Sept. 27.
“Music is a very important part of Hispanic culture, so we thought celebrating it with the campus was a great idea,” Zarate said.
The group’s purpose is two-fold: to serve the Hispanic community and to educate the College community about Hispanic culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month was created in 1968 under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, in an effort to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Americans. Hispanic Heritage Month started Sept. 15 and will continue until Oct. 15.
On Nov. 2 the HCO will host the annual Hispanic Heritage Banquet in the Sadler Center Commonwealth. The group also plans to host events with Students of the Caribbean Organization and the student organization E.S.S.E.N.C.E. Women of Color.

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