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Juan-Carlos Formell

Juan-Carlos Formell represents the third generation of one of Cuba's most important musical families. The grandson of Francisco Formell, the arranger for Ernesto Lucuona's Cuban Boys, and the son of Juan Formell, founder and leader of Los Van Van, Formell has clearly inherited the musical skills of his ancestors. His talents, however, have only been allowed to flower since his escape from Cuba and the granting of his asylum in the United States. Formell's early musical experiences seemed to pave the way for continued success. His commitment to the traditional roots of Cuba's music and his social minded-lyricism resulted in his being unable to perform in Cuba or tour overseas. In a 1996 interview, he explained, "Even though my songs don't speak specifically about politics, they reflect the reality of Cuba from my prospective and not from the prospective of the system." In 1993, Formell was allowed to accompany a Cuban band during a tour of Mexico. While there, he swam the Rio Grande and found refuge in the United States. Arriving in New York, he began performing as a street musician in the city's subway stations. Soon after performing on Paul Simon's soundtrack album, Capeman, he formed a band, Cubalibre, and signed a multi-album contract with Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains' label, Wicklow. His debut album, Songs from a Little Blue House, released in 1999, marked him as a very promising new artist. Rhythm Magazine wrote "With brilliant technique and profound originality, Formell has turned Afro-Cuban conventions inside out"; the Washington Post wrote "(Formell's) compositions are built atop supple, rippling, beats, articulated by the singer's breezy guitar figures and amplified by his tasteful percussionists...full of evocative nature imagery, and bittersweet memories". The new millennium look promising for Formell; he issued a second album Las Calles del Paraiso and picked up where Songs from a Little Blue House left off. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
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