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‘Party’ is in the name of band opening new Empress Theatre concert series in Fort Macleod

trio bembe

Trio Bembe brings its up-tempo Latin rhythms to the Empress Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 26. The Winnipeg group opens the new Centre Stage Series.

Empress Theatre patrons better be ready for a party on Saturday, Sept. 26.
After all Trio Bembe, the group that opens the 2015-’16 Centre Stage Series, has “party” in its very name.
“Bembe” is an Afro-Cuban word that means a certain kind of rhythm, as well as a party or concert.
“We want to bring the party,” singer Amber Epp said. “People are welcome to get up and dance if they’re so inclined. We just want to have a good time. We want to have a lot of fun.”
“That’s always my favourite thing when I go and see musicians perform. If they’re having a good time, then I have a good time.”
Trio Bembe will bring to the Empress Theatre music with a Latin beat from around the world.
Epp, who in addition to singing plays hand percussion, Rodrigo Munoz on guitar and vocals and Victor Lopez on bongo, guitar and vocals are Trio Bembe (pronounced bem-bay).
“For this concert we are going to have a mix of Latin songs from around the world as well as jazz songs that we have given the Latin treatment to,” Epp said. “There will be songs in English, but we also want to introduce people to music from other countries.”
Introducing people to music from around the world is part of Trio Bembe’s mission. It is one that is close to Epp’s own heart.
Epp laughingly describes herself as a “Mennonite girl from Manitoba” whose musical experience came from studying classical piano, singing in choirs and doing musical theatre.
After hearing jazz, though, Epp decided to make it her area of study at the University of Manitoba.
“The first time I heard it, I just loved it. I love the harmonies, I love the feel of the music.”
While she was studying jazz at university, Epp was introduced to people who played Latin music.
“I heard the music and I loved the rhythm and the groove,” said Epp, who set about learning enough about the music that she could become part of Munoz’s band Pappa Mambo.
A 10-piece salsa band, Pappa Mambo was a fixture for 11 years on the Canadian Latin and jazz music scene which, although it may seem unexpected against a prairie backdrop, is thriving.
“Jazz music and Latin music are not as popular as Justin Bieber or that sort of thing, but we always meet people who love to hear the music,” Epp said. “We always find wherever we perform there are people who really love this kind of music. It might not be the most popular overall, but it is definitely well-loved in Canada.”
The music transcends any language barrier presented by some of the songs being in Spanish.
“Even though a lot of our audiences are not Spanish speakers, they’re not Latinos, it’s the rhythm that people love,” Epp said of an experience she shares with many fans. “I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying but I love the groove. You can’t feel bad when you’re listening to Latin music because it’s so upbeat and it makes you want to move. That’s something we really love about it, and we find that audiences love about it.”
Epp played with Munoz and Lopez in Pappa Mambo.
Epp wanted to form a Latin group that had a bit of a broader focus than Pappa Mambo, which plays Cuban salsa.
“I wanted to try and learn about Latin music from a whole bunch of different countries,” Epp said. “The idea is to eventually have a song from every country where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken.”
Fans often give Trio Bembe tips on musicians from other countries.
“We kind of just take it as we hear it. If we hear something that might be a good fit for the trio, we adopt it.”
Part of Trio Bembe’s mission is to introduce people to the sound they love.
“As a performer you‘re going to perform the music best that you love the best. I could sing pop music but I don’t really love it so it probably wouldn’t be that successful.”
“I think our world needs people doing what they really love to do. They’re really going to excel at it because it’s what they want to do.”
Trio Bembe’s album Oh My Soul won a Global Music Award for world beats as well as a Western Canadian Music Award for world recording of the year.
The Winnipeg-based group has released two other albums titled Trio Bembe (2009) and Manitoba Music (2010) and in November will release a Christmas album titled Feliz Navidad: A Latin Christmas.
“We are going to be recording a new album over the winter so the audience is going to hear some of the new songs we are working on,” Epp said, adding with a laugh. “The ones that go over really well are more likely to make it on the album.”

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