Van Van: Let's Party | Chicago Reader

Van Van: Let's Party

Liliana Mazure and Aaron Vega's 2000 video documentary about Los Van Van opens with an orgy of self-congratulation, as the popular Cuban salsa band celebrates its 30th anniversary at a huge open-air concert in Havana, and ends much the same way, as the members bring home their first Grammy a few months later. Sandwiched in between is a fairly interesting portrait of an ensemble that began in a spirit of musical rebellion, mixing traditional son music with elements of rock and jazz, but now has to reckon with its own history as Juan Formell, the graying bassist who founded the group, brings in younger blood. Mario “Mayito” Rivera recalls the rough ride fans and band members alike gave him when he joined as a vocalist, and Formell's son, Samuel, describes the challenge of replacing legendary percussionist Jose Luis “Changuito” Quintana, who quit to concentrate on teaching and solo work. The video makers also document the band's October 1999 trip to Miami, where it was denounced by anti-Castro protesters, but don't seem to know what to do with the issue and drop it after soliciting the usual platitudes about music being the universal language. As the title suggests, this is a story about rhythm, not revolution. 85 min.

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