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Los Van Van Bringing Cuban Salsa Music to the World

Aired March 28, 2000 - 2:54 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Finally, in the Caribbean, the salsa's hot and the dance steps can be downright spicy.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: So let's move to the groove -- are we that hip to do that?

WATERS: We are. We're hip. We're with it.

ALLEN: With CNN's Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman.

WATERS: We're happening.

ALLEN: Move to the groove.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Van Van is Cuba's most popular salsa band. But what's the secret to their success? What's kept them at the top for 30 years?

Perhaps it's because for Van Van the dancer is supreme.

JUAN FORMELL, DIRECTOR, VAN VAN (through translator): We respect the dancer, how he or she wants to dance: faster, slower, with more rhythm.

NEWMAN: Not that today's Van Van looks or sounds anything like the group Juan Formell formed back in 1969. Their evolution, say Van Van, is a reflection of the Cuban public's change in tastes. The music's faster, so are the hip movements.

This month, the group won a Grammy award for their latest recording, "Van Van Is Here," an honor they say they never expected. Last October, Van Van barely managed to give a concert in Miami amid furious and violent protests from exile groups who accuse the musicians of being accomplices to Fidel Castro.

FORMELL (through translator): They see this as a political issue and it's not. I'm not a member of any political party or organization. I'm simply a musician, a man who lives in Cuba because I feel like it, because I like to live in Cuba, and because I believe that the musician who lives in Cuba is the one with the real reference to make Cuban music. NEWMAN: The group gets its inspiration from Cuba, but it's spending most of its time these days playing abroad, from Israel to Japan, where some fans even follow them back home.

Singer Robert Hernandez (ph) says it's because the music is so rhythmical, a sound, they say, which invites everyone, not just Cubans, to sway their hips.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, we look like a bunch of stiffs now, Lou.

WATERS: You know, I was thinking you have to stay loose for that.

ALLEN: Yes, you do.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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