Latin fusion band to add diversity to festival

LA MOVIDA will play at Roots 'N Blues on Saturday.

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Local Latin fusion band LA MOVIDA’s energetic sound could make any listener swear he or she were in Colombia rather than Columbia. The ensemble, performing at 5 p.m Saturday at the Whole Hog Lounge of Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ, produces an eclectic sound combining influences as varied as Spanish flamenco to Santana-style rock.

“Our music is definitely both Latin and fusion,” said Walt Goodman, Spanish guitarist and vocalist for the band. “We don’t have the instrumentation of a traditional salsa band, but we play a lot of salsa. We have a lot of rock guitar and a funk influence.”

Accompanying Goodman in the frontline are lead vocalist, flutist and clave player Melania Bruner and lead guitarists and vocalists Tom Williams and Ryan McLouth. The rhythm section consists of bass player Ben Phelps and percussionists Ryan Borden on timbales and John Markowitz on congas.

With diverse backgrounds in classical, jazz, rock and Latin music, the musicians of LA MOVIDA hold no loyalty to any specific sound. Rather, Goodman said the band holds a loyalty to the fans who come to its gigs and to the passion and energy of all varieties of Latin music.

Goodman can recall the first time he heard live salsa music performed at The Blue Note by Del Alma, three of whose members actually play in LA MOVIDA today. The experience encouraged him to perform Latin music.

“There was a kind of energy that’s unique,” Goodman said. “The electricity when you have that combination of (Latin Music) and the people on the dance floor is powerful and invigorating.”

The Joplin native has a profound appreciation for such experiences and accredits Columbia for its widespread acceptance of Latin music.

“It’s a really wonderful community here that embraces live music and different types of cultures,” Goodman said. “We get a great response from Latinos and no less of a great response from the general public at large. I think Columbia is about as good an incubation place for a band of any kind that you can get.”

From The Blue Fugue to Mojo’s, LA MOVIDA has performed at countless Columbia venues during the past two years. Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ is of special importance to Goodman, who will be performing there for his third time -- but his first with LA MOVIDA.

“Not everyone thinks of roots as being Latin roots,” Goodman said. “It’s cool to be a bit of an alternative to what most people think of like folk, bluegrass, country and blues.”

Despite the band’s unexpected sound, LA MOVIDA plans to perform with as much passion as any other musicians at the festival.

“We are trying to evoke life and dancing and good, strong, powerful music that gets people up and dancing,” Goodman said. “It’s nowhere near a ‘movida,’ a movement, until you get that receptivity from the audience.”

The band’s usual opener, “Cuarto de Tula,” features a traditional upbeat rhythm section alongside an unconventional electric guitar riff reminiscent of Los Lonely Boys, whom LA MOVIDA performed with at Columbia’s Summerfest.

LA MOVIDA’s passionate attitude also fuels the band’s music.

“LA MOVIDA is not so much a band or a word as a way of life,” Goodman said. “All the songs we play are basically a celebration of life. Life is short, and you should really live and savor it.”

Wherever life takes the band, LA MOVIDA plans to continue making music.

“Viva LA MOVIDA!” Goodman said.

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