Heating things up with spicy Latin tunes
Havana native Caridad Cruz packs a powerful punch
Celeste Mackenzie, The Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 2007
To really appreciate Caridad
Cruz's music, you have to see her
perform live. She's an entertainer,
a crowd pleaser. With her powerful
voice and no-holds-barred
personality, she knows how to get
people up dancing and singing.
"It's the ultimate, when an audience
gives energy back through some
sort of engagement like clapping,
cheering and dancing, and at
Caridad's show the audience can't
resist the impulse to move,"
[club owner Paul] Symes said.
By LI ROBBINS
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 26, 2004 - Page R10
One of the most anticipated
performers in the lineup was
Caridad Cruz, relative of the late
Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz.
Based on this Canadian debut
performance, Caridad Cruz seems
well on her way to royal status
herself, with a warm ocean of a
voice that ignited the "house
band," Jane Bunnett's Spirits of
KIDJO BRINGS HEAT
BY JASON RICHARDS
ANGELIQUE KIDJO with CARIDAD CRUZ at
Harbourfront Centre, June 19, 2004. Tickets: $25.
Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN
It was colder than being cool at Harbourfront Centre 's outdoor stage at around 8 pm, when firespirited opener Caridad Cruz erupted into life. Stashed in the Latin artist's arsenal was a killer threepiece band, vicious mambo steps driving her voluptuous figure, … and a voice that could easily be
confused with that of her namesake, elder Cuban music icon Celia Cruz.
Caridad Cruz Vilain was born in Havana, Cuba, into a musical
family deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban culture. Her beloved father
Daniel Cruz was an accomplished professional violinist, whose
own mother was a first cousin of the great Celia Cruz. (Celia had
already left Cuba before Caridad was born, so the two never met.)
Caridad studied music for three years at Havana's Escuela
Superación Técnico Profesional Ignacio Cervantes under the
tutelage of Argelia Fragoso, while at the same time taking private
vocal training from Margarita Orutinier. Other early musical
influences include Pablo Milanes, Félix Chapotin, Elena Burke,
Omara Portuondo, Beatriz Márquez, Rafael Lay and La Orquesta
Aragon, and El Cuarteto Los De Enrique.
In 1990, Caridad began her professional career with a six-month
stint in Trinidad, Cuba, in hotels Costa Sur and Ancón. Over the
next ten years in Havana she went on to sing in many venues such
as the Hotel Vedado, Casa del Thé, Bosque de Bologna, Bar
Monserrate, Café Paris, El Patio, Villa Panaméricana and Cabaret
Alibar. In 2002, her first CD, Caridad Cruz con el Grupo
Habanero Son, was released.
In the fall of 2003, Caridad moved to Chelsea, Quebec to live with
her Canadian husband Michael Bein. The following spring she
made her performing debut in Canada with Jane Bunnett's Spirits
of Havana in a Toronto concert Global Divas that earned her a
rave review in the Globe and Mail and was aired nationally on
CBC Radio. She soon appeared again in Toronto before an
outdoor crowd of 1,000 people at Harbourfront Centre, where,
backed by piano phenom David Virelles and conga master Luisito
Orbegoso, she kicked open the show for French-African star
In 2006, Caridad toured New York City, New Jersey and
Connecticut, accompanied by some of New York's leading Latin
jazz players, like bassist Ruben Rodriguez and conguero Chembo
Corniel. In Montreal, backed by the powerful 9-piece salsa band
Ritmo Caribeño she sang a Celia Cruz retrospective, which was
repeated in the 2006 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
In 2007, Caridad exploded onto the Ottawa scene, with
appearances in the National Arts Centre’s Quebec Scene festival, the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the Ottawa
Bluesfest. “Havana native Caridad Cruz packs a powerful punch,” read the Ottawa Citizen headline.
2008 saw Caridad headlining the Carnival of Cultures at the Astrolabe Theatre, making a return to the
Ottawa Jazz Festival, appearing on Rogers TV with César Ricardo, and twice setting fire to the National Arts
Centre Fourth Stage.
She appeared in 2009 at the Canada Day celebrations in Major’s Hill Park and at the Casino du Lac Leamy
Festival of Sound and Light. She performed at the Ottawa Jazz Festival again that year and twice again in
2010, with one show broadcast nationwide and recorded by CBC Radio and made available on the internet
through Concerts On Demand. In 2010 Caridad and César also made their third appearance at the NAC
Fourth Stage as part of CHIN Radio’s World Music Showcase.
Caridad retains close family and musical ties to Cuba, and a love for her native country which is expressed
proudly in her music.
Caridad Cruz Vilain est née à La Havane, Cuba, dans une famille riche en tradition musicale et culture afrocubaine. Son père, Daniel Cruz, fut un violoniste professionnel accompli et sa mère était cousine de la
célèbre Celia Cruz. (Celia ayant quitté Cuba avant la naissance de Caridad, les deux chanteuses n’auront
jamais l’occasion de se rencontrer.)
Caridad étudie la musique pendant trois ans à la Escuela
Superación Técnico Profesional Ignacio Cervantes à La
Havane auprès de la professeure Argelia Fragoso. Elle suit
alors des leçons de vocalise avec Margarita Orutinier. Parmi
les autres influences de ses premières heures, on retrouve
Conjunto de Pablo Milanes, Félix Chapotin, Elena Burke,
Omara Portuondo, Beatriz Márquez, Rafael Lay et La
Orquesta Aragon, ainsi que El Cuarteto Los De Enrique.
C’est en 1990 que Caridad monte sur scène, dans les hôtels
Costa Sur et Ancón à Trinidad, Cuba. On la verra ensuite
chanter à La Havane pendant dix ans sur plusieurs scènes
reconnues telles que l’ Hotel Vedado, la Casa del Thé, le
Bosque de Bologna, le Bar Monserrate, le Café Paris, El Patio,
la Villa Panaméricana et le Cabaret Alibar. En 2002, elle
lance son premier album: Caridad Cruz con el Grupo
À l'automne 2003, Caridad s’installe à Chelsea au Québec en
compagnie de son époux canadien, Michael Bein. Elle
consacre sa première performance canadienne au printemps
2004 à Toronto aux côtés de Jane Bunnett and The Spirits of
Havana, lors du concert Global Divas. Ce concert lui vaut des
critiques élogieuses au Globe and Mail pour ensuite faire
l’objet d’une radiodiffusion nationale à la CBC. Caridad
enchaîne alors avec une seconde performance à Toronto, à
l’extérieur cette fois, devant 1 000 spectateurs au
Harbourfront Centre. Accompagnée de David Virelles, étoile
montante au piano, et de Luisito Orbegoso, maître des
congas, elle chantera avec brio en ouverture du concert
d'Angélique Kidjo, la célèbre chanteuse franco-africaine.
Pendant sa tournée de 2006, Caridad s’exécute à New York,
au New Jersey et au Connecticut. Elle est alors accompagnée de deux musiciens renommés de la scène du
jazz-latin New-Yorkais, soit le contre-bassiste Ruben Rodriguez et le conguero Chembo Corniel. De retour à
Montréal, elle offre un hommage à Celia Cruz, appuyée par l’ensemble salsa Ritmo Caribeño, composé de
neuf musiciens. Ce concert sera repris au Festival de Jazz 2006 de Montréal.
La chanteuse explose littéralement sur scène à Ottawa en 2007. Tour à tour, on peut la voir à la Scène
Québec du Centre National des Arts, au Festival de Jazz d’Ottawa et au Bluesfest d’Ottawa. Le Ottawa
Citizen la consacre en titrant: « La Havanaise Caridad Cruz y va d’un coup puissant ».
En 2008, Caridad fait la primeur au Carnaval des Cultures du Théâtre Astrolabe. Elle retourne sur la scène
du Festival de Jazz d’Ottawa et paraît à la télévision Rogers accompagnée de César Ricardo. Elle crève la 4e
scène du Centre National des Arts à deux reprises.
En 2009, elle participe aux célébrations de la Fête du Canada du parc Major’s Hill et au Festival Son et
Lumière au casino du Lac Leamy. Elle retourne au Festival de Jazz d’Ottawa cette même année et à deux
reprises en 2010. L’un des spectacles sera radiodiffusé d’un océan à l’autre sur la chaîne de Radio Canada et
rendu disponible sur internet sous la rubrique Concerts on Demand. En 2010, Caridad et César feront leur
troisième apparition à la 4e scène du CNA dans le cadre du World Music Showcase de la station
Caridad garde toujours des liens étroits avec sa famille et la musique cubaine. C’est avec fierté qu’elle
exprime son amour pour son pays d'origine à travers sa musique.
Caridad Cruz Vilain nació en Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba en el seno de una familia con
ascendencia musical, que por vía paterna descuella en su padre Daniel Cruz, violinista profesional,
y Celia Cruz paradigma de la música latina, mas conocida como la “Reina de la Salsa”.
Inspirada en estas dos personas tan importantes para ella decide estudiar música durante tres
años en la Escuela de Superación Técnica y Profesional “Ignacio Cervantes”, donde fue discípula
de grandes músicos como: Argelia Fragoso, Carmen
Pedroso, Luis Carbonell, Margarita Orutinier, Beatriz
Márquez; quienes jugaron un papel muy importante en su
formación como profesional.
En su manera de interpretar la música hay referentes
imprescindibles como: Pablo Milanes, Félix Chapotin, Elena
Burke, Omara Portuondo, Beatriz Márquez, La Orquesta
Aragón; que posibilitaron conformar en ella un estilo propio
al expresar la música cubana.
Comienza su carrera profesional en 1990, expandiendo su
voz en centros turísticos de diferentes provincias del país y
de La Ciudad de La Habana. Integra las agrupaciones
“Sonoridad”, “Estrellas Cubanas”, “Caribú”, cuarteto “Los de
Enrique”, “Orquesta Panorama” dirigida por Alberto
Corrales, cuarteto “Habanero Son”, septeto “Havana Club”,
y la Brigada Artística dirigida por Paco Angarica. Sus mas de
diez años de ardua labor fructifican en el 2002 con su
primer CD titulado “Caridad Cruz con el grupo Habanero
Viaja a Canadá (donde reside actualmente) en otoño de
2003 y en marzo de 2004 debuta en la ciudad de Toronto en
el concierto internacional “Global Divas”, organizado por la famosa saxofonista y flautista Jane
Bunnett y transmitido a nivel nacional por la CBC Radio. En éste evento Caridad recibió
excelentes críticas del periodico “Globe and Mail”. Después, en ese mismo año, aparece en el
“Harbourfront Centre” frente a 1000 personas, y donde compartió con excelentes músicos como:
David Virelles y el maestro Luisito Orbegoso, siendo además la que abrió el concierto de la estrella
afro-francesa Angelique Kidjo.
En el 2006 realizó una gira por New York, New Jersey y Connecticut, acompañada por algunos
excelentes intérpretes del Jazz Latino de New York entre los que se encontraban Rubén Rodríguez
y Chembo Corniel. En el verano de ese año participa en el Festival Internacional de Jazz de
Montreal, junto a la potente banda de salsa “Ritmo Caribeño”, homenajeando a Celia Cruz con
algunas de las canciones de la desaparecida salsera.
En la ciudad de Ottawa, en el 2007, impresiona con sus presentaciones en el festival “Quebec
Scene” celebrado en el Centro Nacional de Arte; así como en el Festival de Jazz y el Bluesfest,
cuyos resultados se reflejan en lo afirmado por el “Ottawa Citizen” cuando señala “La Cubana
Caridad Cruz Pegó Con Fuerza”.
Durante el 2008 y 2009 ha sido la figura principal del “Carnaval de las Culturas”, y repite
nuevamente su presencia en el Festival de Jazz de Ottawa. Aparece además en la televisión en el
canal Rogers, junto a César Ricardo; participó en la conmemoración del “Día de Canadá” de la
Comisión de La Capital Nacional, y hace dos presentaciones en el Cuarto Escenario del Centro
Nacional de Arte, donde puso a aplaudir al público hasta el delirio.
Se mantiene aún muy unida a su familia, a Cuba y a su música, razones por las que siente gran
When Caridad Cruz immigrated to Canada in 2003 after a 10-year
career singing in the hotels and night spots of her native Cuba, she
brought with her what The Globe and Mail called a "warm ocean of a
Since her nationally broadcasted Canadian debut, Caridad has
toured the New York area and taken her mix of salsa, Latin jazz, and
traditional Cuban songs to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz
Festival, Bluesfest, National Capital Canada Day celebrations, and
the National Arts Centre.
"Havana native Caridad Cruz packs a powerful punch," pronounced
the Ottawa Citizen. "She's an entertainer, a crowd pleaser. With her
powerful voice and no-holds-barred personality, she knows how to
get people up dancing and singing."
Heating things up with spicy Latin tunes
Havana native Caridad Cruz packs a powerful punch
Celeste Mackenzie, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2007, Arts Section, Page 1
To really appreciate Caridad Cruz's music, you have to see her perform live. She's an entertainer, a
crowd pleaser. With her powerful voice and no-holds-barred personality, she knows how to get people
up dancing and singing along to a traditional Cuban song, Tito Puente's Oye Como Va, or a standard
from her famous relative Celia Cruz, the late, great, "Queen of Salsa."
Such was the scene not-too-long ago at Zaphod Beeblebrox, where the Havana native and Chelsea
resident and her six-piece band Kubacua performed to a packed house of mostly Latin Americans,
along with a good contingent of what seemed to be non-Latins doing their best to move their hips the
It seems other music tastemakers in the area have taken notice as well. Both the Ottawa Jazz Festival
and Bluesfest have booked her for their summer lineups, and she plays Barrymore's Music Hall on
Saturday night as part of the NAC's Quebec Scene festival.
Kubacua's makeup seemed to reflect the audience: members are
originally from Cuba, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Cruz
put the band together in May 2006 after chance meetings and
hearing about musicians in the area through word of mouth. Not only
is she pleased with the quality of the musicians, Cruz likes their
varied backgrounds as well.
"I really like that the band is not just made up of just Cubans,
because I'm interested in playing other styles of music, besides
Cuban," Cruz said in halting but determined English.
Black Sheep Inn owner Paul Symes says it's taken Cruz a while to get the right band together,
but the result at his club has been an audience that can't resist dancing.
"It's the ultimate, when an audience gives energy back through some sort of engagement like
clapping, cheering and dancing, and at Caridad's show the audience can't resist the impulse to
move," Symes said.
The singer is also part of a jazz and blues trio with Kubacua's guitarist and bassist. They began
performing this year, one of their goals being to appeal to a wider audience. These are genres
she's already familiar with, thanks to the records of American jazz greats she listened to as a
child in Havana. Soon she hopes to sing some standards in both English and French. Composing
her own material is another goal.
"I want to write. I've had ideas before, but I never wrote. I've dreamed a lot, but I feel more mature
now, so I want to write and find someone who can compose the music," Cruz said.
Carlos Fresquet, a Cuban resident of Ottawa who was at the Zaphod's show, says some original
material might just be what Cruz needs to really make a name for herself.
"She's very good, she's got the right voice for this sort of style, as well as lots of charisma. In
Cuba, there are so many great singers that she wouldn't be very original there, but she puts on a
great show that's unique for Ottawa. She is already well-known within the Cuban community
here, and Cubans like to see her perform. With some original material, she could really stand out
Cruz grew up listening to many Cuban musicians including Celia Cruz (a cousin of her
grandmother). She says she's sorry she never met Celia, who left Cuba before her birth and
"I never met her, but I feel like I knew her. I would have liked to," Cruz laments.
There are similarities in their performance style, but Cruz says she'd never even seen Celia on
television until she immigrated to Canada in 2003 after marrying Chelsea resident Michael Bein.
The two met in 1999 during a show in Havana, and he's now her manager.
Cruz began her professional career in 1993 performing in bars and hotels in and outside Havana
with her own group. Just before leaving Cuba, they recorded a CD.
She says it's been difficult restarting her career in Canada while at the same time learning French
and English and getting used to everything else that's new for her.
"I want to be famous!" Cruz says with a laugh that, like her singing voice, fills up the room. "But in
Ottawa, there are so few opportunities. Many musicians in Toronto ask me, 'What are you doing
in Ottawa?' There are so few events. I would like to play in a salsa festival, for example, but that
just doesn't exist," Cruz said.
Indeed, Cruz got her first big break in Canada when she met Toronto jazz musician Jane Bunnett
at a concert shortly after moving here. An invitation from Bunnett followed to sing in a 2004
Global Divas concert in Toronto broadcast by CBC Radio.
Since then, Cruz has performed in some small clubs in the New York, New Jersey and Montreal,
and is getting more bookings in the national capital area. She says appearing at Ottawa festivals
is an important signal that her career is on the right track.
"I'm new to Canada, so this is a very good sign," Cruz said. "This give me even more motivation
than ever to compose some of my own songs."
Caridad Cruz plays Barrymore's Music Hall Saturday; Comunidad Sagrada Familia, 152 Glenora St., May 19; the
Ottawa Jazz Festival June 22 and Bluesfest July 12. Tickets & times for most shows at ticketmaster.ca.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2007
By LI ROBBINS
Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, March 26, 2004 - Page R10
Global Divas: International
Celebration of Women and Song
At Kool Haus
In Toronto on Wednesday
Define diva. The choices are few -- either she's an operatic prima donna or a sultry singer of torch songs.
Or perhaps an arrogant temperamental shrew. The "global" divas performing on Wednesday night added
another shade of meaning, based on origins of the word, the Latin divus meaning divine.
These divas, performing at a fundraising gala for St. Stephen's Community House in Toronto, looked
divine and sang divinely, in a setting not necessarily calculated to bring out the best in a musician. Each
had about three songs in which to unleash her musical best, with minimal pregame rehearsal.
Unleash they did, starting with Suba Sankaran, who has an endearing way with both South Indian music
and jazz. The latter featured Sankaran the scat singer, possessing a startlingly pure upper register never
hinted at in her husky-voiced South Indian material.
Brazilian-born Monica Freire was up next. Singing music shaped by Bahia, the Brazilian state where
Africa's musical footprint is most pronounced, Freire's performance was all velvety voice, marvellous
percussive vocalizing, and a stage presence that was one part sweet, one part sensual.
One of the most anticipated performers in the lineup was Caridad Cruz, relative of the late Queen
of Salsa, Celia Cruz. Based on this Canadian debut performance, Caridad Cruz seems well on her
way to royal status herself, with a warm ocean of a voice that ignited the "house band," Jane
Bunnett's Spirits of Havana. (Who proved that, along with their leader, they are also the spirits of
any number of other capital cities, supporting each singer's material with deft, empathetic
Although most of these Canadian-based divas have immigration tales, Oumou Soumare probably has come
the farthest, culturally speaking -- her journey taking her from Mali to Moncton. Soumare's grace and voice
are perfectly suited to the compelling groove of her music, a groove the band slipped into part way through
one number that sounded like a Malian take on South African township jive crossed with Thelonious
Catarina Cardeal followed Soumare with fado and fado-influenced Portuguese song, moving from jaunty to
emotion-drenched, all sung in a supple, commanding voice. An equally strong performer rounded out the
evening, the award-winning Haitian-born Emeline Michel. Her voice can move from earthy to operatic -and did. Michel also spoke of the troubles in her birthplace, and performed one piece she described as a
reminder that what ties people together is love.
What tied these six disparate singers together was a notable degree of talent and professionalism (and great
outfits). Perhaps love as well, for in the end all singers returned to the stage for one final cross-cultural jam.
Fitting for a "global" diva.
NOW Magazine | JUN 24 - 30, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 43
KIDJO BRINGS HEAT
BENIN'S SOUL SISTA NUMBER ONE WARMS UP CHILLED
BY JASON RICHARDS
ANGELIQUE KIDJO with CARIDAD CRUZ at Harbourfront Centre, June 19.
Tickets: $25. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN
It was colder than being cool at Harbourfront Centre 's outdoor stage at
around 8 pm, when fire-spirited opener Caridad Cruz erupted into life.
Stashed in the Latin artist's arsenal was a killer three-piece band, vicious
mambo steps driving her voluptuous figure, a shimmering Beyoncé wig and a
voice that could easily be confused with that of her namesake, elder Cuban
music icon Celia Cruz.
Many in the audience were business-class bohemians with one common goal:
to shut off their cellphones, forget what a fax machine sounds like and get
loose. That's why people were catching the vapours, standing up and yelling
"Azúcar!" and dancing at the sides.
It should be said that although Cruz was a blazing opener, the drawn-out
double encore wasn't required.
After 45 minutes of dead air, the slight, sprightly and wholly wonderful
Angélique Kidjo came out in a black pantsuit with bright red flares, gold
jewellery adorning her neck and arms and matching her hair.
With her four-man band, she blasted right into uplifting songs from her new
album, Oyaya! – Yoruba for joy.
"Now, you know the rules," said Kidjo in her mellifluous West African accent.
"You gotta dance when you feel like it. And the reason you have to dance is
because it's really cold, rig ht?"
They danced to her cover of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile, and they danced to all
the rest of her global jam-outs. For that matter, so did Kidjo, and she looked like
she was having the time of her life.
While I dislike the term "world music" (what, did rock and roll begin on Jupiter?),
Kidjo's four-language mastery of sounds from R&B to diaspora to salsa to
compas to ska to jazz to rock does live up to it.
With her deep, wood-textured pipes, Kidjo (even though she had laryngitis that
night, I later found out) was from start to finish a culture-shocking powerhouse –
not to mention great fodder for water-cooler chit-chat Monday morning.
NOW | JUN 24 - 30, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 43
Born in the beautiful coastal town of Gibara in eastern Cuba, César Ricardo
Caballero developed his passion for music in the quiet countryside where many
nights were spent singing and playing guitar and clave with his father,
grandfather and uncle.
César's early influences were the 'feeling' and ‘trovadores’ movements of the early
70's-80's. Great musicians from this period like Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo
Milanes forever changed the Cuban music
César’s musical talents first began to attract
attention as he made winning first prize in
both the guitar and singing categories at
music festival competitions a habit.
He took private instruction in music theory
and harmony from the respected jazz pianist
Orestes Escalona. He also studied classical
and popular guitar with the great bassist
Señor Antonio Cuence (known in Cuba as
Tonito), who remains the director of several
well known Cuban bands and is a member of
the evaluation team of professional musicians in Holguin City. Under Tonito’s
tutelage, César developed his own unique style and an ear for other styles, and he
honed his talent for writing original compositions and scores. He gained
admittance to the Holguin City Professional Music Acadamy, worked his way
through, and successfully completed all required provincial examinations.
For nine years he played as a professional guitarist for thousands of tourists in
bars and hotels around Cuba, notably the El Faro in Gibara and hotels Atlantico,
Guardalavaca and Las Brisas in Holguin Province.
In 2006, César married a Canadian and moved to Ottawa. Since then, he has
continued to write music, remained active as a singer and guitar player and
attracted a host of very talented musical friends. Much sought after in the local
musical community, he has made appearances at the Ottawa Jazz Festival,
Bluesfest, Tulip Festival, Gatineau Festival, Carnival of Cultures and the Ottawa
He has appeared frequently with Caridad Cruz in duets and larger groups. Three
times the two have played together at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
(twice as a duet), and a duet performance of theirs was broadcast on Rogers TV.
A synergetic collaboration between the two stellar Cubans is ongoing.
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