Spotlight On: A Series on Culture & the Arts
Fernando is their leader. He’s the one with the jutted chin who goes between looking like a hit-man and a lovesick romantic. On his right there’s back up singer Lorena and Gladis who specializes in odd, smaller-than-your-head percussive instruments and shaking her ass. To his left we have wind instrument Juan Carlos whose sax fits him better than a Lonely Planet in, well, your hands. Laying down a steady foundation upon which to jam is Juan Jose on bass and Hugo on congas, djembe and box. You might get lucky and see them play with guest artists from cellists to percussionists but those I have just named form the core of what is Sombrero Negro.
They’re Rumba, they’re Cuban, they’re Bolero and they can pull off a passable salsa and tango. At their weekly shows though you’ll hear mostly cover songs along the lines of Gypsy Kings or Buena Vista Social Club that get vamped, revamped and then soloed upon by the whole crew until staying seated isn’t really an option. It’s been four years now since Fernando found his partners in crime Hugo and Juan Jose and those that came later have stuck with the exception of only a few. One of the more subtly impressive facts about the guys in SN is that they aren’t one trick ponies: Hugo is also a guitarist, JC plays wind instruments of all kinds, Gladys can play sax, and guitar and Fernando, well, he plays at least five instruments at a level that would drop the jaws of pros around the world. Their Royal Paris show comes as highly recommended as the place’s sandwiches but whether it’s there or La Luna you need to see these guys; it’s your duty.