The big band Latin explosion that is DIÁSPORA began at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, in March 2009, through a one-off ‘spotlight concert’ exploring a range of traditional and folkloric Afro-Cuban and West African repertoire. “We had a full 19-piece ensemble combining vocals, piano, bass, percussion, 7-piece horn section, string quartet and African mbira,” recalls bandleader Rory Duffy. “I originally had the idea of creating this band in 2007 but I never thought that it could actually materialize. Initially this gig was supposed to be a one-off concert but everyone (both musicians and audience alike) enjoyed it so much that they were all asking me ‘when’s the next gig?’”
Sure enough, the band’s next appearance (‘A Night in Hollywood’) approached Latin music from a completely different perspective and was packed full to the brim with showstoppers from the movies, which included ‘Copacabana,’ ‘Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights’, ‘Miami Vice’, ‘Saludos Amigos’ and ‘Shall We Dance?’ as well as a host of commercial Latin dance club hits.
Their debut at Matt & Phred’s Jazz Club in October 2009 combined fresh and feisty salsa classics with cool Brazilian and funky Latin fusion – earning the band a monthly residency at the club, working with the ‘Salsa de Cuba’ dance classes. Their double encore left spectators dancing in whatever space left between the tables and singing along to the refrain of ‘Mais Que Nada’.
The band’s second year brought them two new lead vocalists Alyss Rose and James Vielma, and headline slots at Cultural Collage World Music Festival and Manchester Jazz Festival, earning them critical acclaim.
DIÁSPORA is a ‘big band’ by its very nature; equipped with all the credentials to make an exhilarating live outfit – engaging vocalists, a driving rhythm section and a big fat brass section – making it quite simply, the ultimate band. “I like to describe it as a ‘VIBE BAND’” explains bandleader Rory Duffy, “because we strive to blend influences from styles considered more ‘mainstream’ – jazz, funk, rock and pop – around a core of driving, pulsating Latin rhythms… We mix English lyrics in with the Spanish and the Portuguese – it’s a real fusion…”
Furthermore, DIÁSPORA has an ever-evolving lineup. “I’ve never thought of it as a band – it’s more of a collective. People come in and out all the time, always bringing something new to the table. It’s a pool of talent. No matter how much the project develops, its aims remain the same. All we want to do is play the music we love, and transmit this enjoyment to our audiences as much as we can, through connecting with the people in this music. We want to connect with the people through this music – engaging with audiences through universal themes of love and fiesta!”
Their second birthday bash gig at Matt & Phred’s will premier some original songs and new arrangements. “We never like to play it safe,’ jokes Rory Duffy. “Every gig we do is a story in its own right, and we always like to chuck something into the melting pot that will keep everyone on the edges of their seats (or, even better, off their seats!)… And this gig will be no different. I don’t JUST want to play all our favourite songs; this gig is as much about looking ahead at what’s to come, as it is celebrating what we already have to offer. That’s why it’s the right time to try out some of our original tunes.”
DIÁSPORA’s second birthday bash will take place at Matt & Phred’s Jazz Club, Manchester, on Thursday 31 March 2011. FREE entry.
RED & BLACK MUSIC